Richard Beeston

An appeal from beyond the grave

Richard Beeston on Benazir Bhutto's final appeal

In 1988 I arrived in Pakistan a few hours after the assassination of Zia ul-Huq, the military dictator whose aircraft had been blown to pieces by a bomb. In most countries the violent death of a leader, who had dominated politics for more than a decade, would trigger soul-searching, or at the very least a determination to find out who had killed him and why. But within days of the assassination it was clear that there was little appetite to probe the latest chapter in Pakistan’s violent history. Zia was given a state funeral and quickly forgotten by his countrymen. Twenty years after his murder, the circumstances of his death remain a mystery.

The same fate could have befallen Benazir Bhutto, when assassins attacked her armoured car in the city of Rawalpindi on 27 January during the closing days of her election campaign. Footage seemed to show that she was shot by a gunman, but official investigators insisted that she died of head injuries caused by the impact of an explosion against her armoured car. When Scotland Yard detectives were called to investigate, the crime scene had been scrubbed clean, the body buried and the list of suspects was growing. To date, President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s shadowy intelligence services, Baitullah Mahsud, the country’s top militant warlord, and even Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama, have all been accused of involvement.

The story might have ended there, had Bhutto not penned this book before her death. It not only reveals who she believes was out to kill her, but also sets out how she would have led the country as prime minister, had she survived to take part in elections that she would certainly have won earlier this year.

On the first point, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West will make uncomfortable reading for anyone, like America and Britain, who has supported President Musharraf, in the belief that he may be a dictator but he is the West’s best ally in the struggle against militant Islam in Pakistan.

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