Who Assassinated Bhutto?
While there is no doubt that this question can only be dealt speculatively at present and a fair and thorough investigation is very necessary – something that the present regime is not capable to offer – I will only try to discuss what is already on the table.
Shortly after the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, the Government of Pakistan pointed its finger at the terrorist organization famous for crimes of international terrorism – none other than Osama’s Al-Qaeda. The Interior Ministry claimed that “Benazir was on the al-Qaeda hit-list”. This claim by the Interior Ministry of Pakistan was strengthened by Al-Qaeda’s main commander in Afghanistan and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid when he told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location that “we terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen”.
While the Al-Qaeda connection can not be over-ruled, my understanding is that there are usually a number of forces acting behind an event such grave and gigantic as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It surely is easy for the powers that be to lay the entire burden on Al-Qaeda alone, but such accusations should not be bought at their face value. There has to be more to it than Al-Qaeda alone. There are a number of if’s and but’s with regards to the efficacy of Benazir’s struggle against religious fundamentalism even if she was to come to power, knowing that she would have faced incredible difficulty in establishing a working relationship with Pervez Musharraf. Moreover, if we follow the logic of Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, Musharraf was a far greater asset of U.S.A. than Benazir in the “war on terror” – if an American asset was the target of Al-Qaeda.
In my view, it was the collusion of a number of forces that resulted in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. One can not deny the strong penetration of pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda organizations in various cross-sections of the armed forces after years and years of cooperation at a common front. The nexus between the Taliban forces and the Pakistan army became visible when it was found that the two attempts to kill Musharraf were the result of a conspiracy involving Al Qaeda (Abu Faraj al-Libi, now in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre), the Jaish-e-Mohammad and junior officers of the Pakistan army and air force. In other incidents targeting political figures, involvement of junior officers of the Pakistan army and air force was suspected.
These pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda factions in the armed forces had the greatest to loose by having Benazir in the office of Prime Minister. She would have uncovered these elements in open, jeopardizing not only the pro-Taliban individuals but also the institutions of armed forces. After the first attack on Benazir shortly after her arrival at Karachi on October 18th, resulting in a tragic bloodbath, she told the French Magazine Paris-Match about those who wanted her dead: “They are dignitaries of General Zia’s former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism.”
Why were her words not taken seriously by the Government? I confess I do not have a clear answer to this question. This might be to save the face of the institutions of armed forces. At many occasions during the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, arrangements were made to evacuate the Pakistani intelligence officials stationed with the Taliban militia primarily to safeguard the armed institutions from bad press. This time around, the gross negligence on the part of the Government in providing Benazir with adequate security and incapacity to carry out proper investigation of prior blasts by the Government can only be interpreted as cooperation accorded to the assassins by turning their backs to maturing conspiracies.