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Benazir Bhutto, 54, the first woman to have been elected Prime Minister of an Islamic state, and who just last October emerged from her self-imposed exile of eight years to return to Pakistan, has been assassinated.   A suicide bomber hit crowds gathered to hear her speak at a Pakistan People’s Party rally in Rawalpindi.  She is said to have survived the bombing in which at least 20 died but she was shot in the neck as she fled the scene. 

Bhutto spent five years in prison and had been dogged by accusations of corruption and money laundering which she said were politically motivated.   She returned to Pakistan in October when she was given amnesty by Pakistan President Musharraf.  She was a popular leader who many viewed as key to a democratic Pakistan and to resisting the increasing power of fundamentalist groups and leaders there.

When 136 people were killed in last October’s suicide bomb attack upon her return to Pakistan, Bhutto said she would limit mass election rallies and would campaign by telephone.

“We do not want to endanger our leadership unnecessarily, and we certainly don’t want to risk potential mass murder of my supporters,” she wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 23.  “If we don’t campaign, the terrorists have won and democracy is set back further. If we do campaign, we risk violence. It is an extraordinary dilemma.”

Bhutto has given her life for her country now, having known the risks she was taking and taking them anyway for the sake of a more democratic Pakistan.  She had been warned repeatedly that Islamic militants wanted her dead. Elections are just days away.   Islamic militants have vowed to disrupt the vote, and opponents of Musharraf’s regime, including Bhutto, have accused him of intending to rig the vote.  Bhutto had been a fierce critic of Musharraf’s autocratic regime and his recent imposition of martial law and some believe Musharraf may be behind her assassination.  Bhutto asserted in the interview linked above that she believed Musharraf would find a way to extend the suspension of the constitution for up to two years. 

Whatever anyone says or may believe about Bhutto, she was a courageous woman who would not be stopped.  So men — the same men who insist they are committed to the protection and care of women — took her out.   It is only women who know their place, after all, who are viewed as deserving of protection,  or for that matter, of deserving to live at all.

UPDATE:  Here is an online condolence book for Benazir Bhutto:

There is good coverage in Teeth Maestro’s blog of news as it unfolds.  The press is blaming the Pakistan People’s Party for rioting, etc., but Teeth Maestro was an eye witness and observed MQM party members (the MQM party controls Karachi) wielding rifles and torching vehicles.

Teeth Maestro also blogs that Condoleeza Rice has called Musharref to urge that elections be held on January 8th as planned, something Teeth Maestro and others say would be a disaster, given Bhutto’s murder and the certainty that Musharref, who may be responsible for her murder, will be re-elected, enraging Pakistanis who hold him responsible for Bhutto’s death.

Evidently Bhutto’s 19-year-old son has taken leadership of the PPP, which Teeth Maestro says the Bush regime will view favorably but which will cause a rift within the party.


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BBC, Tok Mommy, AFP,




  1. heart, thank you for blogging about this.

    “It is only women who know their place, after all, who are viewed as deserving of protection, or for that matter, of deserving to live at all.”

    yes. i’m struck by how much bhutto’s story shadows that of so many other women . . . she’s abused and threatened, she protests against her abusers, she tries to get away from them, she asks for sufficient protection, she doesn’t get it, she goes back, she’s killed.

    Posted by ladoctorita | December 27, 2007, 4:42 pm
  2. Thanks from me too, Heart. I was so shocked when I heard the news I didn’t know what to say, but you’ve said it all for me. x

    Posted by Debs | December 27, 2007, 5:25 pm
  3. My first reaction when I read this on my political mailinglists was: “Welcome to powder keg central”

    Her death is like so many other deaths of women, where the misogyny is brushed away and ignored, that are instrumentalised for vengeance against this group or that person. Musharaf only waited for an occasion like this to take control again. If he can do it while showing women their place so much the better.

    Posted by Jokerine | December 27, 2007, 9:17 pm
  4. When I read about Bhutto’s return to Pakistan, and heard about her on KPN, I was so intrigued by her. I really wanted to see what she was going to do there, watch a woman with power reflect her vision on a country that hates women so much. But of course, they couldn’t allow that. A woman with some dubious power but definite public populatity is hated *so much* that multiple people gave their lives to try to take her out. I read about a possible _child_ rigged as a human bomb this time. THIS is how much they hate us.

    And we’re told over and over how wrong we are if we display the slightest EXPRESSION of hatred right back at them. Never mind actually *hurting* them; just saying the words, and we’re ‘hating on them’. Whine, whine, whine…

    I don’t always, but just now, I *hate* them. I freely hate upon them, and it’s nothing compared to their hate for me, for us. Line up all the fucking misogynists in the world right now, shoot them dead, and it’ll be *nothing* compared to all the women they’ve killed because they simply hate us. And I’m supposed to bear it quietly because it makes people uncomfortable when I espouse some fanciful wish that we could create a genetic disease that targets misogynsts? (Not Men, just MISOGYNISTS. We sometimes hope they’re not one and the same.)

    *Am I making you uncomfortable?* Oh, I’m SO SORRY. Your feelings are defintely more important than our desire not be murdered, dismembered, BBQed /eaten or raped. Or all of the above.

    Posted by Pramiti | December 27, 2007, 9:34 pm
  5. Thanks for the report on Benazir Bhutto. Again we get the full perspective on the insanity known as fundamentalism.

    Just another military dictatorship using U.S. funds to do still more damange to their own people! We sure know how to pick them!

    Posted by Satsuma | December 27, 2007, 9:45 pm
  6. I do not know if Musharraf had a direct hand in this, but there are certainly rumblings about lax security provided for Bhutto, so it could be said he let this happen. Everyone knew her life was in great danger. Not only was she despised as a woman defying fundamentalist strictures, but she was also seen as a US ally. Bush may call Musharraf an ally, but there are all kinds of reasons to think that alliance is wishful thinking, a business arrangement at best. Like another dubious ally, Saudi Arabia, most of the people have great antipathy for Western infidels.

    Posted by Aletha | December 28, 2007, 6:26 am
  7. I watched a youtube video of what Bhutto said after the attempted assassination in October and read some of her writings about it as well as an interview. She said in the October suicide bombing, there were no street lights, it was dark, and nobody could see anything. They used flood lights they had on hand but those were inadequate. As she asked, what was the deal with the no street lights? How did that happen? She said she had also requested and been given cell-phone jammers to interrupt suicide bombers’ possible use of cell phones, but, she said, the jammers didn’t work. She said she had asked Musharraf to get help from Scotland Yard so far as security, which help was available, but Musharraf didn’t get this help for her. She said repeatedly she believed that people within the Musharraf administration intended to assassinate her.

    Musharraf denies involvement of course. Of course, the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA (can’t recall the name now) could have orchestrated Bhutto’s assassination and Musharref can easily blame it on “militants and terrorists.” The Pakistan People’s Party straight up blames Musharref. And of course, Bhutto really might have been assassinated by Al Quaeda, who knows? What we do know is that military juntas and dictatorships like Musharref’s *need* terrorists, and terrorists *need* military dictatorships. They feed off of one another and each need the other so that the people can be made to Be. Very. Afraid. in an ongoing way, hence willing to accept martial law, or for that matter, the horrors of the Homeland Security Act and the imprisonment of hundreds of innocent people for YEARS basically because they are of Arab descent. I learned recently that not a single person imprisoned by the U.S. as a suspected terrorist under the Homeland Security Act has actually been found to have been a terrorist. And yet Americans lined up and said “yes, amen, throw them in jail, extreme times demand extreme measures.” Same thing with the Musharref regime and similar, anything can be justified under the aegis of ridding the country of terrorists, including martial law, possibly including the assassination of Bhutto.

    And of course, the Bush regime sucks up to this dictator and sends him plenty bucks to do whatever he is going to do, then Bush gets up there and says how sorry he is that Bhutto lost her life.

    This really is not a good thing. Bhutto was the hope of Pakistan’s poor. As I understand, 50 percent of Pakistani adults are illiterate right now. 80 percent of the country is poor. These were the people who supported Bhutto, despite her own comparative affluence. They are enraged and rioting and have lost hope and who can blame them. I wept myself watching as they beat their chests and their heads, lashed out, dear god, who wouldn’t.

    Posted by womensspace | December 28, 2007, 7:04 am
  8. Bhutto wrote a letter to be opened in the event she was murdered that stated plainly if she were dead then no one needed to look any farther then Musharraf to know who was responsible. Musharraf and Bush were both very quick to blame extremists, however it’s business as usual and the elections will go on as scheduled. The opposition party already stated they will boycott the elections on January 8. This means that the current power structure maintains status quo. Musharraf is Bush’s puppet, just like Saddam Hussein was, and will be allowed to remain in power until our government needs another scapegoat.

    Posted by Kelly | December 28, 2007, 1:36 pm
  9. ***the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA (can’t recall the name now)***

    The ISI. Don’t know what the letters stand for.

    Posted by Branjor | December 28, 2007, 4:42 pm
  10. First, womensspace, thanks for listening to Benazir Bhutto and for having us listen to her. (There are so many telling us what she must mean).

    Second, we’re listening to the media with Gloria Steinem all over again, who says in “Supremacy Crimes”: “I don’t know about you, but I’ve been talking back to the television set, waiting for someone to tell us the obvious: it’s not ‘youth,’ ‘our children,’ or ‘our teens.’ It’s our sons-” It’s not the pakistani government, our presidential administration, or anyone’s extremists. It’s our sons with the guns and the bombs-

    I think Steinem and Bhutto were listening to one another. Listen:

    “I think the way out can be found through a deeper reversal: just as we as society have begun to raise our daughters more like sons–more like whole people–we must begin to raise our sons more like our daughters–that is, to value empathy as well as hierarchy; to measure success by other people’s welfare as well as their own.”

    Posted by J. K. Gayle | December 28, 2007, 5:02 pm
  11. Yeah, Nike, I also noted in the news coverage that she said if she should be killed, Musharref will be the one who did it. The latest in the U.S. from Homeland Security is, Al Quaeda did it. Except that Al Quaeda hasn’t taken responsibility for it, no other terrorist groups have either, and they generally do take responsibility because they’re proud of what they do. Mushareff says “terrorists” did it. But Bhutto said and her party says it’s Musharref and it’s a no brainer for me, I believe Bhutto.

    Hey there, J.K. Gayle, welcome. I sure agree with Gloria that it isn’t “youth” and “children” and “teens”, it’s sons. But those sons are acting on someone’s orders, are fulfilling someone’s agendas, their fathers, generally, whether in government or in terrorist groups or wherever.

    Posted by womensspace | December 28, 2007, 5:40 pm
  12. Musharref also put Mukhtar Mai under house arrest to stop her from speaking about her rape and incredible story of standing up to her rapists, as well as bringing charges against them. He felt it made Pakistan look bad.

    Posted by Jeyoani | December 29, 2007, 3:19 am
  13. After dinner out we were sitting in a cigar smoke-scented cab with an uncommunicative driver when his talk radio station mentioned the assasination. We asked him who died, what happened? And he said, simply, “that lady, Bhutto. She was corrupt.” And then he offered this nugget: “I vote Romney. That lady, Clinton’s wife, she crazy. I send her a couple of recipes for the kitchen. She need to learn cook. Stay out politics.”

    Sometimes the symmetry of misogyny takes my breath away. But only temporarily.

    We paid our fare in silence. Wondering what battles are worth fighting. When to talk back.

    That night I wrote a check to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, to another imperfect woman up against an immense hostility. To a woman who deals with the devils, compromises, and fights, and whom I don’t expect to save me. But this was my token, my one small way of talking back, this time.

    Posted by twitch | December 29, 2007, 3:38 am
  14. Democracy Now did a whole show this morning on this. It was mostly Tariq Ali, livid that Bhutto was pushed into making a deal with Musharraf by US and British pressure, reassured she would be safe but provided no security, trusting the locals. Musharraf had his own agenda. Of course it is all blamed on terrorists. How convenient and predictable. Did the Bush gang deliver her up for slaughter? Is she another martyr killed by fundamentalism, US policy, or both?

    Mr. Ali talked about a lot of ugly history, some implicating her. This is not the first time Bhutto was put into an impossible bind, and this time it cost her life.

    Posted by Aletha | December 29, 2007, 8:55 am
  15. When the Pakistani government sweaps clean a crime scene, and the election is right around the corner, I think you have to look at Musharref as a possible suspect– his orders to kill a political rival who did stand a chance in unseating him.

    Just look at what he did– martial law, just only recently lifted, increased pressure from the U.S.
    But what clinched it for me, was the mention of how the crime scene was cleaned up! Maybe I’m watching too much “Law and Order,” but when crime scenes get tampered with, you have got to be suspicious as to why.

    And then there are these creepy moments; Condoleeza Rice signed a condolence book, but not looking all that distraught at all.

    Al Qaeda did not claim responsibility, and no other radical male islamic group did either. It’s been eerily quiet on this front.

    Posted by Satsuma | December 29, 2007, 7:40 pm
  16. In fact, Al Quaeda has specifically said it was not responsible and has said its members also mourn Bhutto’s death.

    Posted by womensspace | December 29, 2007, 8:21 pm
  17. I updated my post up there with additional links to good information from a Pakistani blogger’s blog.

    More from a different Pakistani blogger:

    Posted by womensspace | December 29, 2007, 8:23 pm
  18. Perhaps we shall never know who killed her and for what reasons. However for her supporters here in Pakistan it is tribute enough that she has made her mark and put her country on the map all over. She may have been as corrupt as people say she was in governance but we will always remember her as a brave and fearless leader who died fighting for what she believed in.

    Posted by faisalk | December 29, 2007, 9:36 pm
  19. I heard about this on the radio while driving and was so shocked I took a wrong turn and got lost!

    Posted by profacero | December 30, 2007, 2:45 am
  20. Bhutto was no oppressed woman. Always filthy rich, always privileged, always coddled and protected. The final risk was hers, undertaken because she couldn’t resist the lure of power.

    She did more harm to my country than any other civilian leader. She’d already HAD two chances, over two terms, to deliver — and she deliberately did not. Instead, her corruption is unparalleled in the history of extremely corrupt South Asian politics.

    I wish she hadn’t been assassinated and her murderers are contemptible people, also only interested in power.

    But let’s not make this woman a feminist / political martyr.

    Posted by apostate | December 30, 2007, 3:40 am
  21. Thanks for weighing in, apostate, I wondered what your thoughts might be. I went to the link you posted on your own blog about Bhutto. I agree with the commenter on that link that Bhutto is more useful to the US (and to Musharraf) as a (perceived) martyr than as a stabilizing force, which was the rationale used for the power-sharing agreement so-called under which she returned to Pakistan. Given the widespread PPP view that Musharraf was responsible for Bhutto’s death and the instability in Pakistan just in general, Musharraf has what he needs to once again invoke martial law. Of course, he will also be elected again if the election goes forward. And this is what the U.S. wants to see happen. So who knows who might have killed Benazir Bhutto? It would be far from the first time the U.S. had a hand in an assassination of this type.

    I definitely did not view Bhutto as a feminist, just as a powerful, charismatic woman.

    Posted by womensspace | December 30, 2007, 4:27 am
  22. The death of Benazir signifies at least one thing that she was not acceptable to some group of people in Pakistan. Another speculation about it is pointing towards Chaudaries of Gujrat who were already having a feud with Bhutto family since they use to blame them for death of Chaudary Zahoor Elahi

    Posted by Dr Farrukh Malik | December 30, 2007, 5:44 am
  23. Apostate,
    We don’t have to “make” Benazir Bhutto “a feminist / political martyr” if she was “always privileged, always coddled and protected.”

    We don’t even have to “view” her “as a feminist” if we see her more as “a powerful, charismatic woman.”

    But this much is true: a) her “final risk was hers” and there’s no question she was willing to take the risks for reform (for women in Pakistan).

    and b) there is much much much to reform in Pakistan on behalf of women, and Bhutto did much (and we pray that in her death will continue to do more) for women in Pakistan.

    Here’s more on how Benazir Bhutto spent her own power and privilege to help women without any in Pakistan:

    Posted by J. K. Gayle | December 31, 2007, 5:34 pm
  24. A little note, but according to all the reports across the pond here and according to video footage, Bhutto was shot first, then the assassin blew himself up. There’s a little controversy as to whether her death was caused my bullets or by head trauma (some say she hit her head ducking to avoid the shots) but there’s nothing about her fleeing the scene – the gunman died with the blast.
    Aside from my customary nitpicking, I’m still very disappointed by the whole affair. I’m not saying Bhutto was a perfect candidate – there’s no doubt that she was as guilty of some corrupt practises, but then she was not the only one, and she certainly was not a terrible candidate either, and certainly she was far better than the General, and far more popular. She still wanted democracy, and I’m sure that her death was at the hand of Musharraf – he has hounded her since her return to Pakistan and stood in her way at every turn. I hope he does not win this election – and is made to face the courts for his crimes.

    Posted by Mwezzi | January 1, 2008, 10:52 pm


  1. Pingback: Benazir Bhutto has been killed « The Burning Times - December 27, 2007

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