27.12.07 – 6:16 PM Pakistan Time, Benazir Declared Dead

bhutto1.jpg

In this picture taken in October 2007, Benazir Bhutto is seen in a flight from Dubai to Pakistan, a journey that ended her decade-long self-exile to London and Arab countries. But was that her last flight? Yes. She is dead.

Muslim world’s first female leader was not immortal to survive yet another Thursday blast – the first on October 18, 2007, a Thursday, and the other blowing her up on December 27, 2007, again a Thursday.  The October suicide attack on Benazir’s convoy had killed nearly 150 civilians but Allah spared her. The second attack was terminal that came while she was campaigning ahead of general elections in disturbed Pakistan.

Benazir, the ‘Daughter of the East’ and almost an iconic figure in the West, was assassinated cheaply like any other leader in South Asia, which has a history of bloody deaths, sending chill down the spine.

Like India’s Nehru-Gandhi family, the Bhuttos of Pakistan have been one of the world’s most famous political dynasties. Benazir’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was prime minister in the early 1970s.

Now, Benazir has left behind sustained turmoil, purposeless and dysfunctional government and a rise in extremism in a nation that has never been able to stand on its own. Her assassination has also left in ruins the fragile US diplomatic effort to bring together Pakistan’s acutely divided political groups.

Ten most important things I know about BB: She had her education at Harvard and Oxford; Her father led Pakistan before being executed in 1979; She spent five years in prison in solitary confinement; She was Pakistan’s Prime Minister from 1988-1990 and 1993-1996; She was sacked twice by president on corruption charges; She formed alliance with her rival and former premier Nawaz Sharif in 2006; She ended self-imposed exile by returning to Pakistan in October 2007; She inspired South Asian women; She was a woman who would command presence; & She was beautiful.

Why was BB killed? There is no doubt that Benazir had many enemies especially after her public speaking against Taliban and fundamentalists. And who doesn’t know that she was seen as main challenge to the current government in Pakistan. In fact, Gen. Pervez Musharraf allowed Benazir into Pakistan only after tremendous US pressure. When she arrived in Pakistan in October last, the millions of people who came to receive her gave sleepless nights to Gen. Musharraf and his power-hungry coterie. This ultimately paved way for the return of another former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Although the fundamentalists had allegedly vowed to kill her, Gen. Musharraf can not be absolved and will be the greatest benefactor of her death. And in case, Gen. Musharraf’s government may not be directly involved in her killing, it can not be absolved of inaction in protecting her.

The million-dollar question remains as to why was Benazir not provided ample security cover despite being on the ‘hit list’ of terrorists and extremists!!!

Speaking on television after Benazir died, opposition leader Nawaz Sharif said, “I myself feel threatened.” Pakistan’s leading newspaper ‘Dawn’, in its editorial, wrote Benazir died because the government proved inadequate in protecting her.

Getty Images photographer John Moore who took the last picture of the former premier moments before her assassination told CNN he was “surprised” to see Benazir rising through the sun-roof of her vehicle to wave to supporters after delivering her speech.

“I ran up, got as close as I got, made a few pictures of her waving to the crowd and then suddenly, there were a few gunshots that rang out, and she went down, she went down through the sun-roof,” he said. “And just at that moment I raised my camera up and the blast happened. … And then, of course, there was chaos.”

Benazir Bhutto's Final Moments
Benazir Bhutto’s Final Moments

News of BB’s death on the official news agency APP was limited to only five paragraphs.

Look who is smiling… Of course the militants. Because their ability to wreak havoc with their ruthless tactics has once again been demonstrated.

How would I like to remember BB? Well, I will always remember BB as a leader who died before her supporters. True leaders should always be willing to die for people and before people. May we always remember BB’s courageous sacrifice for her people!

Bhutto photographer: ‘Gunshots rang out and she went down’

She came out waving and smiling and standing up through the sunroof of her armoured car. I couldn’t believe it then and I still can’t todayJohn Moore on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

I was actually walking away at the time. The campaign rally had finished and I had squeezed through the single narrow gate of the fenced park. I wanted to get ahead of the throngs of Benazir Bhutto supporters. But when I heard a cheer erupt, I turned around, and there she was.

I pushed my way back 50 yards through the frenzied mob of devotees. Shoving past people to get close to her vehicle, I shot 15 frames just in front of her car, photos of her waving goodbye to her supporters.

As the former prime minister’s car surged forward, I pushed out of the way, ahead of her vehicle. I needed to adjust my camera. In the melee, the shutter setting had been bumped down to 1/15 and 1/8 of a second, giving the photos an unintended impressionistic look.

I turned on my flash, but before resetting the camera, I turned and glanced back at her car.

Just then I heard three shots, which sounded as if they were fired from close to her car. I watched her drop down through the sunroof, and I raised my camera, my finger pressed down on the shutter release.

Just as the camera came up in front of my face, the bomb went off.

The suicide bomber had set off his charge behind her car. The camera caught the blast itself and the horrible debris it spewed into the air: pieces of car, chunks of cement—human flesh. The boom was deafening, but her car – and the bodies of her supporters – shielded me from the force of the blast. I was about 20 yards from the explosion, maybe less.

The bomb triggered an immediate stampede of survivors and I was momentarily swept up in the exodus. I shot a blur of people as I, too, got pushed back in the wave of panic.

As the crowd fled behind me, and Bhutto’s damaged vehicle sped past, a tableau of carnage spread out before my lens. Corpses – some of them in pieces – littered the ground. Wounded survivors, some shrieking, most silent, looked up from the pavement, trying to make sense of the violent flash that had just changed their lives.

Other photographers who had been delayed by the fleeing crowds arrived on the scene. One later told me that he saw me hopping from place to place through the blood and body parts, watching my step. Much was too gruesome to photograph.

That day, just 18 seconds passed between my first photo of Bhutto waving from her car and the bomb blast, followed by just 10 minutes or so of aftermath, the last images illuminated by the fading sunlight.

Eventually, I thought to check my cell phone and there were half a dozen missed calls, mostly from my wife who was desperately trying to find out if I was okay.

I found my driver, who also narrowly escaped being injured, and we waded into rush hour traffic that seemed incongruously normal. I distracted myself from the slow pace by reviewing the day’s photos on the back of the camera and wishing I’d done a better job.

8 comments

  1. I wonder why we give so much importance to this lady’d death- our PM giving condolences to her. Just breeze through her life as PM of Pak. She built ISI and Taliban for scoring scores over India in Kasmir and also Afganistan knowing fully well that Pak can’t beat India in war. And now in the present age she was screaming against the very same ISI and Taliban. Her father also appealed secretly to India to intervene to get him off from Zia!! let me put it sweetly she deserved the death by the very goons she created . May be I am wrong India is magnaimous -to forgive her father and now her like our Mahatama Gandhi for Jinnah and others- not forgetting her father’s and hers hand in creating the nuclear arsenal specific against India .
    achuta

    Like

  2. Benazir Bhutto’s elimination from the Pakistani scene does not and will not mean much in the long term as she had not been able to cast any worthy shadow over Pakistan. Benazir is not an exception when we compare her with her South Asian counterparts.
    India’s neighbourhood is full of leaders who weren’t ever concerned with nation building or democracy. Though I am disappointed and hurt by her early death.

    Like

  3. The slain Pakistani political leader had vowed to end terrorism in Pakistan. She vehemently opposed General Musharaff’s government for its anti-people policies. Ms. Bhutto laid down her life for the people of Pakistan. Fundamentally there was breach of security as she was not provided with adequate security even after the earlier assassination attempt on her immediately after her return to Pakistan. Her direct attack against the Madrasas and Clerics for breeding terrorists in the name of Islam came in for sharp criticism from fundamentalists.

    It is shocking to believe that a man carrying an automatic weapon was able to come close, aim and fire a few shots at Ms. Bhutto while she was surrounded by a large swathe of her supporters and armed security personnel. Gen. Musharraf is responsible for Ms. Bhutto’s death. It is a lesson for rulers of Pakistan to mend their ways from supporting religious terrorism and clamp down an ordinance to save Pakistan from becoming another Afghanistan or Iraq.

    Like

What do you think? Please leave a reply, to complete the conversation. Thank you for your time.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s