Pakistan government offers to exhume Benazir Bhutto’s body after her party’s contradiction of official version of her death
Saturday, Dec. 29, Two days after opposition leader Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in Rawalpindi, her aides dismissed an interior ministry official’s assertion to the press Friday that she was killed by her head hitting the sunroof of her car in a blast caused by a suicide bomber. One aide who sat in the armored car said she saw a bullet wound in the back of Bhutto’s neck. Neither does the dead leader’s party credit the government’s claim that al Qaeda and Taliban were responsible. The Pakistan official maintained Friday that no bullets or shrapnel were found in her body. He reported intelligence intercepts of a phone call in which al Qaida leader Baitullah Mehsud congratulated his people for the slaying. Saturday, Mehsud denied a hand in the crime.
Many of Pakistan’s towns are in lockdown with no shops open or traffic on the streets. But angry clashes with police continue, especially in parts of Sindh, raising the number of deaths to 40 – in the face of the security forces’ orders to shoot miscreants on sight.
Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif plans to visit Bhutto’s grave in the family mausoleum at Nau Dero in Sindh Province, where she was buried beside her father Friday.
He announced he would boycott the Jan. 8 general election which is now up in the air. The Pakistan election commission is to hold an emergency session Monday to decide how to proceed. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s party will decide Sunday whether to take part.
The ministry spokesman told the press Friday that that Nawaz Sharif was equally under threat. He maintained Bhutto had been provided with more levels of security than any other politician and opposition parties ignored security advice. Asked about the efficacy of jammers as protection against bombs, the spokesman stressed they only worked against remote-controlled devices by disarming their signals – not devices activated manually by a suicide bomber.
debkafile: Twice prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto leaves no apparent heir to lead her Pakistan People’s Party, the largest in parliament. She was the youngest and first female prime minister to lead a Muslim nation. Her exile began eight years ago under a cloud of corruption allegations against her and her husband.
Benazir’s death is a huge setback to hopes of stability in Pakistan, a nuclear power, and neighboring Afghanistan. As an ally against al Qaeda and Muslim radicals, Washington had pressed Musharraf to allow her return from exile, pinning hopes on her strong presence in the post-election Islamabad government for a more determined assault on al Qaeda and the Taliban than Musharraf’s flagging effort.
The Bush administration failed to take into account the number of Benazir’s enemies at home, ranging from al Qaeda and other radical groups to the Pakistan army and SIS intelligence. Her demise is a grave blow to Washington’s plans for a stable de-radicalized Pakistan and a coup for al Qaeda and its fellow extremists.