One Murder Closer To A Nuclear Nightmare In Pakistan
December 30, 2007
She had been warned by her security detail not to put herself at risk by exposing herself in the middle of seething crowds. But Benazir Bhutto, fatalist and populist to the last, could not resist.
Moments earlier she had addressed an adulatory mass, convincing them and herself that her party could win next month's parliamentary elections and allow her to taste power once again in her beloved homeland.
On the way out of Liaqat Bagh Park in the centre of Rawalpindi – the garrison town that neighbours the capital, Islamabad – she felt relatively safe. Security had been tight and the chance to grandstand on the home turf of incumbent President Pervez Musharraf was too good to miss.
As her white bulletproof Land Cruiser left the park, her driver was forced to slow down to negotiate a path through the crowds. Bhutto stood up and out of the sun roof, smiling and waving from under her traditional white headscarf.
Grainy video footage shows that as the car passed, a gunman just a few feet behind raised his weapon and fired three times in Bhutto's direction. Then the area around the car erupted in a fireball as a suicide bomber flung himself at the vehicle.
What happened next is, extraordinarily, a matter of debate. Some witnesses, backed by doctors who treated the opposition leader, say she was hit in the neck and shoulder by two bullets, one of which severely damaged her spinal cord. Then she was hit by shrapnel from the bomb, which added to her already terrible injuries. She fell down through the hatch, fatally injured and slumped on the car's back seat in a pool of blood.
Bizarrely, the Pakistan government asserted that her death was more like a grisly accident than an assassination – that the former prime minister died when the blast from the bomb threw her sideways and she smashed her head on the metal lever that opened the sun roof. The blow shattered her skull, they said, an injury from which she subsequently died. The claim came conveniently after Bhutto's body was buried on Friday, just a day after her death, in accordance with Muslim custom.
However she died, the darkest fears of her supporters, who had welcomed the 54-year-old head of the Bhutto political clan home from exile just two months ago, had become a reality. Their political hope was now a blood-soaked corpse.Put that in your pipe and smoke it. War is reality.