Benazir Bhutto . Net
21 June 1953 – 27 December 2007
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was a Pakistani politician who chaired the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a centre-left political party in Pakistan. Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, having twice been Prime Minister of Pakistan (1988–1990; 1993–1996). She was Pakistan’s first and to date only female prime minister. She was also the wife of current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
Bhutto was the eldest child of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and Begum Nusrat Bhutto, a Pakistani of Kurdish descent. Her paternal grandfather was Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, who came to Larkana District in Sindh before the independence from his native town of Bhatto Kalan, in the Indian state of Haryana.
Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister for the first time in 1988 at the age of 35, but was removed from office 20 months later under the order of then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan on grounds of alleged corruption. In 1993 she was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on similar charges, this time by President Farooq Leghari. She went into self-imposed exile in Dubai in 1998.
Bhutto returned to Pakistan on 18 October 2007, after reaching an understanding with President Pervez Musharraf by which she was granted amnesty and all corruption charges were withdrawn. She was assassinated on 27 December 2007, after departing a PPP rally in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, two weeks before the scheduled Pakistani general election of 2008 where she was a leading opposition candidate. The following year she was named one of seven winners of the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights.
Education and personal life
Benazir Bhutto was born at Pinto Hospital in Karachi, Dominion of Pakistan on 21 June 1953 to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan and Begum Nusrat Ispahani. She attended the Lady Jennings Nursery School and Convent of Jesus and Mary in Karachi. After two years of schooling at the Rawalpindi Presentation Convent, she was sent to the Jesus and Mary Convent at Murree. She passed her O-level examinations at the age of 15. She then went on to complete her A-Levels at the Karachi Grammar School.
After completing her early education in Pakistan, she pursued her higher education in the United States. From 1969 to 1973 she attended Radcliffe College at Harvard University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree with cum laude honors in comparative government. She was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Bhutto would later call her time at Harvard “four of the happiest years of my life” and said it formed “the very basis of her belief in democracy”. Later in 1995 as Prime Minister, she would arrange a gift from the Pakistani government to Harvard Law School. On June 2006, she received an Honorary LL.D degree from the University of Toronto.
The next phase of her education took place in the United Kingdom. Between 1973 and 1977 Bhutto studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, during which time she completed additional courses in International Law and Diplomacy. After LMH she attend St Catherine’s College, Oxford and in December 1976 she was elected president of the Oxford Union, becoming the first Asian woman to head the prestigious debating society.
On 18 December 1987, she married Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi. The couple had three children: two daughters Bakhtawar and Asifa and a son named Bilawal.
Benazir Bhutto’s father, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was removed from office following a military coup in 1977 led by the then chief of army General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who imposed martial law but promised to hold elections within three months. Nevertheless, instead of fulfilling the promise of holding general elections, General Zia charged Mr. Bhutto with conspiring to murder the father of dissident politician Ahmed Raza Kasuri. Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was sentenced to death by the martial law court.
Despite the accusation being “widely doubted by the public”, and many clemency appeals from foreign leaders, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on 4 April 1979. Appeals for clemency were dismissed by acting President General Zia. Benazir Bhutto and her mother were held in a “police camp” until the end of May, after the execution.
In 1985, Benazir Bhutto’s brother Shahnawaz was killed under suspicious circumstances in France. In 1996, the killing of her other brother, Mir Murtaza, contributed to destabilizing her second term as Prime Minister. Murtaza, who had been outspoken in his accusations of corruption by his sister and her husband Zardari, was gunned down just outside of his home by police. This extrajudicial killing was almost certainly approved at the highest levels and it was widely believed to have been instigated directly by Bhutto’s husband Zardari.
Struggle against martial law of General Zia-ul-Haq
After the overthrow of her father Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government in a bloodless coup Benazir Bhutto spent the next eighteen months in and out of house arrest as she struggled to rally political support to force Zia to drop murder charges against her father. The military dictator ignored worldwide appeals for clemency and had Zulfikar Bhutto hanged in April 1979. Following the hanging of her father Bhutto was arrested repeatedly, however, following PPP’s victory in the local elections Zia postponed the national elections indefinitely and moved Bhutto and her mother Nusrat Bhutto from Karachi to Larkana. This was seventh time Benazir had been arrested within two years of the military coup. Repeatedly put under house arrest, the regime finally imprisoned her under solitary confinement in a desert cell in Sindhi province during the summer of 1981. She described the conditions in her wall-less cage in her book “Daughter of Destiny”:
“The summer heat turned my cell into an oven. My skin split and peeled, coming off my hands in sheets. Boils erupted on my face. My hair, which had always been thick, began to come out by the handful. Insects crept into the cell like invading armies. Grasshoppers, mosquitoes, stinging flies, bees and bugs came up through the cracks in the floor and through the open bars from the courtyard. Big black ants, cockroaches, seething clumps of little red ants and spiders. I tried pulling the sheet over my head at night to hide from their bites, pushing it back when it got too hot to breathe.”
After her six month imprisonment in Sukkur jail, she remained hospitalized for months after which she was shifted to Karachi Central Jail, where she remained imprisoned till 11 December 1981. She was then placed under house arrests in Larkana and Karachi eleven and fourteen months respectively.
Movement for Restoration of Democracy
As restrictions on press and media were intensified and persecution of political activist increased Bhutto realized that only way to fight Zia’s regime was to unite with a section of the opposition PNA. The talks with PNA were successful and Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was established. The movement was widely supported by people of Pakistan and brutally repressed by the junta. The MRD included sections of Pakistani society that were outside Zia’s preview of Islamization of the country, like Shiites, ethnic minorities such as Balochs, Pathans and Sindhis and Bhutto’s own PPP. While Benazir spent most of the time under house arrests and imprisonments the MRD movement continued its protests against the regime. An estimated twenty thousand PPP workers were killed and between 40,000 to 150,000 people made political prisoners in crackdown by Zia.
Self-exile in London
In January 1984, after six years of house arrests and imprisonment, Zia succumbed to international pressure and allowed Bhutto to travel abroad for medical reasons. After undergoing a surgery she resumed her political activities and began to raise concerns about the mistreatment of political prisoners in Pakistan at the behest of Zia regime. The intensified pressure forced Zia into holding a referendum to give certain legitimacy to his government. The referendum held on 1 December 1984 proved a farce and due to only ten percent voter turnout despite use of state machinery.
Further pressure from the international community forced Zia into holding elections, for a unicameral legislature on a non-party basis. The PPP thus announced a boycott of the election on the grounds that they were not being held in accordance with the constitution of Pakistan. She continued to raise voice against human rights violations by the regime and addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 1985,
“When the conscience of the world is justly aroused against apartheid and against human rights violations …. then that conscience ought not to close its eyes to the murder by military courts which takes place in a country which receives …. aid from the West itself.” The speech was responded by the Zia regime with announcement of death sentences of 54 PPP workers in a military court in Lahore.
Bhutto, who had returned to Pakistan after completing her studies, found herself placed under house arrest in the wake of her father’s imprisonment and subsequent execution. Having been allowed in 1984 to return to the United Kingdom, she became a leader in exile of the PPP, her father’s party, though she was unable to make her political presence felt in Pakistan until after the death of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. She had succeeded her mother as leader of the PPP and the pro-democracy opposition to the Zia-ul-Haq regime.
The seat from which Benazir contested for the post of Prime Minister, was the same one from which her father had previously contested, namely, NA 207. This seat was first contested in 1926 by the late Sardar Wahid Bux Bhutto, in the first ever elections in Sindh. The elections were for the Central Legislative Assembly of India. Sardar Wahid Bux won, and became not only the first elected representative from Sindh to a democratically elected parliament, but also the youngest member of the Central Legislative Assembly, aged 27. Wahid Bux’s achievement was monumental as it was he who was the first Bhutto elected to a government, from a seat which would, thereafter always be contested by his family members. Therefore, it was he who provided the breakthrough and a start to this cycle. Sardar Wahid Bux went on to be elected to the Bombay Council as well. After Wahid Bux’s untimely and mysterious death at the age of 33, his younger brother Nawab Nabi Bux Bhutto contested from the same seat and remained undefeated until retirement. It was he who then gave this seat to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to contest.
On 16 November 1988, in the first open election in more than a decade, Bhutto’s PPP won the largest bloc of seats in the National Assembly. Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister of a coalition government on December 2, becoming at age 35 the youngest person—and the first woman—to head the government of a Muslim-majority state in modern times. In 1989, Benazir was awarded the Prize For Freedom by the Liberal International. Bhutto’s accomplishments during this time were in initiatives for nationalist reform and modernization that some conservatives characterized as Westernization.
Bhutto’s government was dismissed in 1990 following charges of corruption, for which she was never tried. Zia’s protégé Nawaz Sharif came to power after the October 1990 elections. She served as leader of the opposition while Sharif served as Prime Minister for the next three years.
In October 1993 elections were held again and her PPP coalition was victorious, returning Bhutto to office and allowing her to continue her reform initiatives. According to journalist Shyam Bhatia, Bhutto smuggled CDs containing uranium enrichment data to North Korea on a state visit that same year in return for data on missile technology. In 1996, amidst various corruption scandals Bhutto was dismissed by then-president Farooq Leghari, who used the Eighth Amendment discretionary powers to dissolve the government. The Supreme Court affirmed President Leghari’s dismissal in a 6-1 ruling. Criticism against Bhutto came from the Punjabi elites and powerful landlord families who opposed Bhutto. She blamed this opposition for the destabilization of Pakistan. Musharraf characterized Bhutto’s terms as an “era of sham democracy” and others characterized her terms a period of corrupt, failed governments.
During the election campaigns the Bhutto government voiced its concern for women’s social and health issues, including the issue of discrimination against women. Bhutto announced plans to establish women’s police stations, courts, and women’s development banks. Despite these plans, Bhutto did not propose any legislation to improve welfare services for women. During her election campaigns, she promised to repeal controversial laws (such as Hudood and Zina ordinances) that curtail the rights of women in Pakistan. Bhutto was pro-life and spoke forcefully against abortion, most notably at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, where she accused the West of “seeking to impose adultery, abortion, intercourse education and other such matters on individuals, societies and religions which have their own social ethos.”
Bhutto was an active and founding member of the Council of Women World Leaders, a network of current and former prime ministers and presidents.
Policy on Taliban
The Taliban took power in Kabul in September 1996. It was during Bhutto’s rule that the Taliban gained prominence in Afghanistan. She, like many leaders at the time, viewed the Taliban as a group that could stabilize Afghanistan and enable trade access to the Central Asian republics, according to author Stephen Coll. He claims that like the United States, her government provided military and financial support for the Taliban, even sending a small unit of the Pakistani army into Afghanistan.
More recently, she took an anti-Taliban stance, and condemned terrorist acts allegedly committed by the Taliban and their supporters.
After the dismissal of Bhutto’s first government on August 6, 1990 by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on the grounds of corruption government of Pakistan issued directives to its intelligence agencies to investigate the allegations. After fourth national elections, Nawaz Sharif became the Prime Minister and intensified prosecution proceedings against Bhutto. Pakistani embassies through Western Europe, in France, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and Britain were directed to investigate the matter. Bhutto and her husband faced a number of legal proceedings, including a charge of laundering money through Swiss banks. Though never convicted, her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, spent eight years in prison on similar corruption charges. After being released on bail in 2004, Zardari suggested that his time in prison involved torture; human rights groups have supported his claim that his rights were violated.
A 1998 New York Times investigative report claims that Pakistani investigators have documents that uncover a network of bank accounts, all linked to the family’s lawyer in Switzerland, with Asif Zardari as the principal shareholder. According to the article, documents released by the French authorities indicated that Zardari offered exclusive rights to Dassault, a French aircraft manufacturer, to replace the air force’s fighter jets in exchange for a 5% commission to be paid to a Swiss corporation controlled by Zardari. The article also said a Dubai company received an exclusive license to import gold into Pakistan for which Asif Zardari received payments of more than $10 million into his Dubai-based Citibank accounts. The owner of the company denied that he had made payments to Zardari and claims the documents were forged.
Bhutto maintained that the charges levelled against her and her husband were purely political. An Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) report supports Bhutto’s claim. It presents information suggesting that Benazir Bhutto was ousted from power in 1990 as a result of a witch hunt approved by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The AGP report says Khan illegally paid legal advisers 28 million rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990–92.
Yet the assets held by Bhutto and her husband continues to be scrutinized and speculated about. The prosecutors have alleged that their Swiss bank accounts contain £740 million. Zardari also bought a neo-Tudor mansion and estate worth over £4 million in Surrey, England, UK. The Pakistani investigations have tied other overseas properties to Zardari’s family. These include a $2.5 million manor in Normandy owned by Zardari’s parents, who had modest assets at the time of his marriage. Bhutto denied holding substantive overseas assets.
Despite numerous cases and charges of corruption registered against Bhutto by Nawaz Sharif between 1996–1999 and Pervez Musharraf from 1999 till 2008, she was yet to be convicted in any case after a lapse of twelve years since their commencement. The cases were withdrawn by the government of Pakistan after the return to power of Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party in 2008.
In 2002, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf amended Pakistan’s constitution to ban prime ministers from serving more than two terms. This disqualified Bhutto from ever holding the office again. This move was widely considered to be a direct attack on former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. On 3 August 2003, Bhutto became a member of Minhaj ul Quran International (an international Muslim educational and welfare organization).
While living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, she cared for her three children and her mother Nusrat, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, traveling to give lectures and keeping in touch with the PPP’s supporters. They were reunited with her husband in December 2004 after more than five years. In 2006, Interpol issued a request for the arrest of Bhutto and her husband on corruption charges, at the request of Pakistan. The Bhuttos questioned the legality of the requests in a letter to Interpol. On 27 January 2007, she was invited by the United States to speak to President George W. Bush and Congressional and State Department officials. Bhutto appeared as a panelist on the BBC TV programme Question Time in the UK in March 2007. She has also appeared on BBC current affairs programme Newsnight on several occasions. She rebuffed comments made by Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq in May 2007 regarding the knighthood of Salman Rushdie, citing that he was calling for the assassination of foreign citizens.
Bhutto had declared her intention to return to Pakistan within 2007, which she did, in spite of Musharraf’s statements of May 2007 about not allowing her to return ahead of the country’s general election, due late 2007 or early 2008. It was speculated that she may have been offered the office of Prime Minister again.
Arthur Herman, a U.S. historian, in a controversial letter published in The Wall Street Journal on 14 June 2007, in response to an article by Bhutto highly critical of the president and his policies, described her as “‘One of the most incompetent leaders in the history of South Asia,” and asserted that she and other elites in Pakistan hate Musharraf because he was a muhajir, the son of one of millions of Indian Muslims who fled to Pakistan during independence in 1947. Herman claimed, “Although it was muhajirs who agitated for the creation of Pakistan in the first place, many native Pakistanis view them with contempt and treat them as third-class citizens.”
Nonetheless, by mid-2007, the U.S. appeared to be pushing for a deal in which Musharraf would remain as president but step down as military head, and either Bhutto or one of her nominees would become prime minister.
On 11 July 2007, the Associated Press, in an article about the possible aftermath of the Red Mosque incident, wrote:
Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and opposition leader expected by many to return from exile and join Musharraf in a power-sharing deal after year-end general elections, praised him for taking a tough line on the Red Mosque. “I’m glad there was no cease-fire with the militants in the mosque because cease-fires simply embolden the militants,” she told Britain’s Sky TV on Tuesday. “There will be a backlash, but at some time we have to stop appeasing the militants.”
This remark about the Red Mosque was seen with dismay in Pakistan as reportedly hundreds of young students were burned to death and remains are untraceable and cases are being heard in Pakistani Supreme Court as a missing person’s issue. This and subsequent support for Musharraf led Elder Bhutto’s comrades like Khar to criticize her publicly.
Bhutto however advised Musharraf in an early phase of the latter’s quarrel with the Chief Justice, to restore him. Her PPP did not capitalize on its CEC member, Aitzaz Ahsan, the chief Barrister for the Chief Justice, in successful restoration. Rather he was seen as a rival and was isolated.
The Bhutto-led PPP secured the highest number of votes (28.42%) and eighty seats (23.16%) in the national assembly in the October 2002 general elections. Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) managed to win eighteen seats only. Some of the elected candidates of PPP formed a faction of their own, calling it PPP-Patriots which was being led by Faisal Saleh Hayat, the former leader of Bhutto-led PPP. They later formed a coalition government with Musharraf’s party, PML-Q.
Return to Pakistan
In mid-2002 Musharraf implemented a two-term limit on Prime Ministers. Both Bhutto and Musharraf’s other chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, have already served two terms as Prime Minister. Musharraf’s allies in parliament, especially the PMLQ, are unlikely to reverse the changes to allow Prime Ministers to seek third terms, nor to make particular exceptions for either Bhutto or Sharif.
In July 2007, some of Bhutto’s frozen funds were released. Bhutto continued to face significant charges of corruption. In an 8 August 2007 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Bhutto revealed the meeting focused on her desire to return to Pakistan for the 2008 elections, and of Musharraf retaining the Presidency with Bhutto as Prime Minister. On 29 August 2007, Bhutto announced that Musharraf would step down as chief of the army. On September 1, 2007, Bhutto vowed to return to Pakistan “very soon”, regardless of whether or not she reached a power-sharing deal with Musharraf before then.
On September 17, 2007, Bhutto accused Musharraf’s allies of pushing Pakistan into crisis by their refusal to permit democratic reforms and power-sharing. A nine-member panel of Supreme Court judges deliberated on six petitions (including one from Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest Islamic group) asserting that Musharraf be disqualified from contending for the presidency of Pakistan. Bhutto stated that her party could join one of the opposition groups, potentially that of Nawaz Sharif. Attorney-general Malik Mohammed Qayyum stated that, pendente lite, the Election Commission was “reluctant” to announce the schedule for the presidential vote. Bhutto’s party’s Farhatullah Babar stated that the Constitution of Pakistan could bar Musharraf from being elected again because he was already chief of the army: “As Gen. Musharraf was disqualified from contesting for President, he has prevailed upon the Election Commission to arbitrarily and illegally tamper with the Constitution of Pakistan.”
Musharraf prepared to switch to a strictly civilian role by resigning from his position as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He still faced other legal obstacles to running for re-election. On 2 October 2007, Gen. Musharraf named Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, as vice chief of the army starting October 8 with the intent that if Musharraf won the presidency and resigned his military post, Kayani would become chief of the army. Meanwhile, Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed stated that officials agreed to grant Benazir Bhutto amnesty versus pending corruption charges. She has emphasized the smooth transition and return to civilian rule and has asked Pervez Musharraf to shed uniform. On 5 October 2007, Musharraf signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance, giving amnesty to Bhutto and other political leaders—except exiled former premier Nawaz Sharif—in all court cases against them, including all corruption charges. The Ordinance came a day before Musharraf faced the crucial presidential poll. Both Bhutto’s opposition party, the PPP, and the ruling PMLQ, were involved in negotiations beforehand about the deal. In return, Bhutto and the PPP agreed not to boycott the Presidential election. On 6 October 2007, Musharraf won a parliamentary election for President. However, the Supreme Court ruled that no winner can be officially proclaimed until it finishes deciding on whether it was legal for Musharraf to run for President while remaining Army General. Bhutto’s PPP party did not join the other opposition parties’ boycott of the election, but did abstain from voting. Later, Bhutto demanded security coverage on-par with the President’s. Bhutto also contracted foreign security firms for her protection.
Bhutto was well aware of the risk to her own life that might result from her return from exile to campaign for the leadership position. In an interview on September 28, 2007, with reporter Wolf Blitzer of CNN, she readily admitted the possibility of attack on herself.
After eight years in exile in Dubai and London, Bhutto returned to Karachi on 18 October 2007, to prepare for the 2008 national elections.
En route to a rally in Karachi on 18 October 2007, two explosions occurred shortly after Bhutto had landed and left Jinnah International Airport. She was not injured but the explosions, later found to be a suicide-bomb attack, killed 136 people and injured at least 450. The dead included at least 50 of the security guards from her PPP who had formed a human chain around her truck to keep potential bombers away, as well as six police officers. A number of senior officials were injured. Bhutto, after nearly ten hours of the parade through Karachi, ducked back down into the steel command center to remove her sandals from her swollen feet, moments before the bomb went off. She was escorted unharmed from the scene.
Bhutto later claimed that she had warned the Pakistani government that suicide bomb squads would target her upon her return to Pakistan and that the government had failed to act. She was careful not to blame Pervez Musharraf for the attacks, accusing instead “certain individuals within the government who abuse their positions, who abuse their powers” to advance the cause of Islamic militants. Shortly after the attempt on her life, Bhutto wrote a letter to Musharraf naming four persons whom she suspected of carrying out the attack. Those named included Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, a rival PML-Q politician and chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Hamid Gul, former director of the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another of the country’s intelligence agencies. All those named are close associates of General Musharraf. Bhutto has a long history of accusing parts of the government, particularly Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agencies, of working against her and her party because they oppose her liberal, secular agenda. Bhutto claimed that the ISI has for decades backed militant Islamic groups in Kashmir and in Afghanistan. She was protected by her vehicle and a “human cordon” of supporters who had anticipated suicide attacks and formed a chain around her to prevent potential bombers from getting near her. The total number of injured, according to PPP sources, stood at 1000, with at least 160 dead (The New York Times claims 134 dead and about 450 injured).
A few days later, Bhutto’s lawyer Senator Farooq H. Naik said he received a letter threatening to kill his client.
2007 State of Emergency and response
On 3 November 2007, President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, citing actions by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and religious extremism in the nation. Bhutto returned to the country, interrupting a visit to family in Dubai. She was greeted by supporters chanting slogans at the airport. After staying in her plane for several hours she was driven to her home in Lahore, accompanied by hundreds of supporters. While acknowledging that Pakistan faced a political crisis, she noted that Musharraf’s declaration of emergency, unless lifted, would make it very difficult to have fair elections. She commented that “The extremists need a dictatorship, and dictatorship needs extremists.”
On 8 November 2007, Bhutto was placed under house arrest just a few hours before she was due to lead and address a rally against the state of emergency.
During a telephone interview with National Public Radio in the United States, Ms. Bhutto said “I have freedom of movement within the house. I do not have freedom of movement outside the house. They’ve got a heavy police force inside the house, and we’ve got a very heavy police force - 4,000 policemen around the four walls of my house, 1,000 on each. They’ve even entered the neighbors’ house. And I was just telling one of the policemen, I said ‘should you be here after us? Should not you be looking for Osama bin Laden?’ And he said, ‘I’m sorry, ma’am, this is our job. We’re just doing what we are told.”
The following day, the Pakistani government announced that Bhutto’s arrest warrant had been withdrawn and that she would be free to travel and to appear at public rallies. However, leaders of other opposition political parties remained prohibited from speaking in public.
Preparation for 2008 elections
On 2 November 2007, Bhutto participated in an interview with David Frost on Al Jazeera where she claimed Osama Bin Laden had been murdered by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is also one of the men convicted of kidnapping and killing U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl. Frost never asked a follow up question regarding the claim that Bin Laden was dead.
On 24 November 2007, Bhutto filed her nomination papers for January’s Parliamentary elections; two days later, she filed papers in the Larkana constituency for two regular seats. She did so as former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, following seven years of exile in Saudi Arabia, made his much-contested return to Pakistan and bid for candidacy.
When sworn in again on 30 November 2007, this time as a civilian president after relinquishing his post as military chief, Musharraf announced his plan to lift the Pakistan’s state of emergency rule on December 16. Bhutto welcomed the announcement and launched a manifesto outlining her party’s domestic issues. Bhutto told journalists in Islamabad that her party, the PPP, would focus on “the five E’s”: employment, education, energy, environment, equality.
On 4 December 2007, Bhutto met with Nawaz Sharif to publicize their demand that Musharraf fulfill his promise to lift the state of emergency before January’s parliamentary elections, threatening to boycott the vote if he failed to comply. They promised to assemble a committee which would present to Musharraf the list of demands upon which their participation in the election was contingent.
On 8 December 2007, three unidentified gunmen stormed Bhutto’s PPP office in the southern western province of Baluchistan. Three of Bhutto’s supporters were killed. As the First female President and the first in the Islamic World, it alleged some spectators argued that if she had not been killed off, she would have been the First Lady of Pakistan rather than her husband, who is the current Head of State of the country.
On 27 December 2007, Bhutto was killed while leaving a campaign rally for the PPP at Liaquat National Bagh, where she had given a spirited address to party supporters in the run-up to the January 2008 parliamentary elections. After entering her bulletproof vehicle, Bhutto stood up through its sunroof to wave to the crowds. At this point, a gunman fired shots at her and subsequently explosives were detonated near the vehicle killing approximately 20 people. Bhutto was critically wounded and was rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital. She was taken into surgery at 17:35 local time, and pronounced dead at 18:16.
Bhutto’s body was flown to her hometown of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Larkana District, Sindh, and was buried next to her father in the family mausoleum at a ceremony attended by hundreds of thousands of mourners.
There was some disagreement about the exact cause of death. Bhutto’s husband refused to permit an autopsy or post-mortem examination to be carried out. On 28 December 2007, the Interior Ministry of Pakistan stated that “Bhutto was killed when she tried to duck back into the vehicle, and the shock waves from the blast knocked her head into a lever attached to the sunroof, fracturing her skull”. However, a hospital spokesman stated earlier that she had suffered shrapnel wounds to the head and that this was the cause of her death. Bhutto’s aides have also disputed the Interior Ministry’s account. On December 31, CNN posted the alleged emergency room admission report as a PDF file. The document appears to have been signed by all the admitting physicians and notes that no object was found inside the wound.
Al-Qaeda commander Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid claimed responsibility for the attack, describing Bhutto as “the most precious American asset.” The Pakistani government also stated that it had proof that al-Qaeda was behind the assassination. A report for CNN stated: “the Interior Ministry also earlier told Pakistan’s Geo TV that the suicide bomber belonged to Lashkar i Jhangvi—an al-Qaeda-linked militant group that the government has blamed for hundreds of killings”. The government of Pakistan claimed Baitullah Mehsud was the mastermind behind the assassination. Lashkar i Jhangvi, a Muslim extremist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda that also attempted in 1999 to assassinate former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is alleged to have been responsible for the killing of the 54-year-old Bhutto along with approximately 20 bystanders, however this is vigorously disputed by the Bhutto family, by the PPP that Bhutto had headed and by Baitullah Mehsud. On 3 January 2008, President Musharraf officially denied participating in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as well as failing to provide her proper security.
A report by UN team which investigated the circumstances in which Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was murdered can be downloaded at following link.