Benazir Bhutto: Five Facts
By: Legacy Staff
4 years ago
On Dec. 27, 2007, prominent Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto was killed at a campaign rally. Almost seven years later, it's still unclear who was behind the assassination – even though arrests have been made, official reports have been filed, and certain outsider groups have claimed responsibility.
Even the cause of Bhutto's death is disputed: Was she felled by bullets? Or did a 15-year-old suicide bomber end her life along with his own and those of 20 others that December day? Did that boy act alone, or did he have a single accomplice, or was he backed by a powerful anti-Bhutto organization?
Bhutto, who twice led Pakistan as prime minister and was seeking a third term at the time of her death, would have celebrated her 61st birthday June 21. Here are five facts about Bhutto, her assassination and the conclusions some have drawn:
1. Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party, was president and then prime minister of Pakistan from 1971 until a military coup ousted him in 1977. He was hanged in April 1979. Bhutto was 29 when she took the helm of the Peoples Party.
2. In 1988, Bhutto was the first woman ever elected to lead a Muslim state. She served twice, from 1988 to 1990, and from 1993 to 1996. She was expelled from office both times by the president of Pakistan for alleged corruption. Bhutto left Pakistan voluntarily in 1999. She returned in October 2007 and, during her homecoming parade, a suicide bomber detonated in the crowd. More than 140 people were killed. Bhutto survived, noting at the time, "We will not be deterred," according to media reports. During a rally a few months later, she shouted, "Bhutto is alive!"
3. The Musharraf government claimed Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud masterminded Bhutto's assassination. The U.S. government agreed, the CIA's chief at the time, Michael Hayden, told media outlets in 2008 including The Washington Post. Mehsud was killed by a Predator drone attack in September 2009.
4. In 2010, the United Nations concluded Bhutto was probably killed by al-Qaida and its Pakistani Taliban allies who recruited the 15-year-old suicide bomber. It also said that the government of military leader Musharraf ignored Bhutto's requests for better security and then tried to cover up the alleged crime. In 2013, Musharraf was arrested on treason charges including alleged involvement in Bhutto's murder. As of May 2014, the cases were still pending.
5. In the 2013 book "Getting Away with Murder: Benazir Bhutto's Assassination and the Politics of Pakistan," Chilean diplomat Heraldo Munoz, who oversaw the U.N.'s investigation, noted that some believe Bhutto's family and her security detail were behind her killing. Others say Musharraf ordered her death.
"We will probably never know with full certainty who killed Bhutto. The list of people and groups that considered Bhutto a hated enemy is long. There are pieces of the murder puzzle but painfully few elements to put them all together," Munoz wrote. "It may well be that Bhutto’s assassination will be another unsolved case in the long history of impunity in Pakistan, and that the controversy surrounding her assassination will endure as much as her memory."
Natalie Pompilio is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. Her lifelong love of obituaries raised eyebrows when she was younger, but she's now able to explain that this interest goes beyond morbid curiosity. Says Pompilio, "Obituaries are mini life stories, allowing a glimpse into someone's world that we're often denied. I just wish we could share them with each other when we're alive."