Benazir Bhutto (June 21, 1953 – December 27, 2007) twice Prime Minister of Pakistan (1988-1990; 1993-1996) was a Pakistani politician who chaired the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a centre-left political party in Pakistan affiliated to the Socialist International. Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, having been twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Bhutto was the eldest child of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Pakistani of Sindhi descent and Shia Muslim by faith, and Begum Nusrat Bhutto, a Pakistani of Iranian-Kurdish descent, of similarly Shia Muslim by faith. Her paternal grandfather was Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, who came to Larkana Sindh before partition from his native town of Bhatto Kalan, which was situated in the Indian state of Haryana.
Bhutto was sworn in 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 Bhutto was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on similar charges, this time by President Farooq Leghari. Bhutto went into self-imposed exile in Dubai in 1998.
Bhutto returned to Pakistan on October 18, 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an understanding with President Pervez Musharraf by which she was granted amnesty and all corruption charges were withdrawn.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 December 27, 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. Serious questions have been raised about the govenment's version of events.
On December 27, 2007, Bhutto was killed whilst 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 standing behind and to the left of the vehicle fired three shots at her with a pistol (still photographs exist which show a man in dark glasses holding up a handgun, and film footage has also been shown in which a pistol is seen firing a number of shots whose muzzle-flashes are clearly visible). Immediately afterwards, someone in the area (perhaps the white-robed individual visible in several still photographs standing close to the gunman) detonated explosives stored about their person, 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 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 December 28, 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.
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 Wahabi 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 December 30, 2007, the Central Executive Committe (CEC) of the PPP approved the delegation of the succession that Asif Ali Zardari had been given to lead the PPP. It was unclear what role Bilawal would play.
Reaction in Pakistan :
After the assassination, there were initially a number of riots resulting in approximately 20 deaths, of whom three were police officers. Around 250 cars were burnt; angry and upset supporters of Bhutto threw rocks outside the hospital where she was being held. Through December 29, 2007, the Pakistani government said rioters had wrecked nine election offices, 176 banks, 34 gas stations, 72 train cars, 18 rail stations, and hundreds of cars and shops. Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the rival opposition party Pakistan Muslim League (N), stated that "This is a tragedy for her party, and a tragedy for our party and the entire nation." Musharraf called for a three day mourning period after Bhutto's assassination on December 27, 2007.
On December 29, 2007, an unnamed senior official told Time magazine that Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto would on December 30, 2007, be made Benazir's successor as the leader of the PPP. However, the BBC reported that there were three possible contenders to the leadership of the PPP. Depending on the will of the late Bhutto, the three possible contenders are
Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari who had a relative role to play during her two terms as Prime Minister; however, Zardari was convicted with several corruption charges and was sent to jail where he served an eight-year sentence. Bhutto's son Bilawal Bhutto, who is currently 19 years old and is studying in his first year at Oxford University, although he is considered by some PPP members to be too young. Makhdoom Amin Fahim, a senior member of the party, who has been Bhutto's aide since her first term as Prime Minister. On December 30, 2007, the late Bhutto's will was read out to the leading members in her party the PPP. The will stated that her husband Asif Ali Zardari should be leader of the party. Zardari said that under the circumstances, a Bhutto needed to run the party. It has been announced in Pakistan that Bhutto's son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will take the cermonial role of the PPP, whilst Asif Ali Zardari will take on day-to-day work. Bilawal said that his mother told him that "democracy would be the best revenge." Zardari called on the British government to help in an investigation into his late wife's death; at the same time, Zardari announced that his children ceremonially have changed their names to "Bhutto Zardari." He also announced that the family would not reveal a possible candidate to stand as Prime Minister, but rather wanted the name on the polls to read Benazir Bhutto and only decide the real candidate if she won the majority of the votes.
On December 30, the Pakistan Peoples Party (the party which she has been head of) called the for the UK Government and the UN to help and conduct the investigation of her death.