Dec 27th marks the death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, a renowned face of Pakistan’s political legacy and an icon of feminine power in one of the most challenging societies for women. She holds the distinction of being the first female leader of a democratic government in a Muslim-majority nation.
For much of her life, Benazir saw little more than court rooms, exiles and the gruesome demise of so many of her family. After the execution of her father, former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1979, Benazir and her mother Nusrat Bhutto inherited leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party.
As chairperson, Benazir shifted the party’s platform from socialism to liberalism. A liberal and secularist herself, she faced intense opposition throughout her political career from religious hardliners and conservatives.
Her two terms as Prime Minister, the first from 1988 to 1990 and the second from 1993 to 1996 were both cut short due to different corruption charges. Her last tenure in particular was also marred by the death of her brother Murtaza Bhutto in a police encounter while she was still in office.
In 1998, Benazir went into self-exile in Dubai after the loss of the PPP in the 1997 elections, leading by proxy. However, she returned in 2007 to contest for the 2008 elections. Her campaign targeted growing extremism and militant violence in the country as well as military oversight and influence over civilian freedoms.
Her chance never came.
On Dec 27th 2007, after concluding a political rally in Rawalpindi, Benazir stopped to lean out of her car’s sunroof and wave to the crowd of supporters. She was fired upon – the exact number of assassins and the amount of bullets fired are figures that are still under dispute to this day. She fell back into her car, after which a suicide bomber detonated himself near the vehicle, killing around 23 people.
Bhutto was rushed to the Rawalpindi General Hospital where she lost her life. What immediately followed would muddle the investigation into the incident and leave her murder an open case to this very day.
In an interview with Chilean politician, diplomat and Ambassador Permanent Representative for Chile to the United Nations, Heraldo Munoz, the strange circumstances of the botched investigation and the failures of the government that allowed the incident to pass are discussed. Munoz, who lead a UN inquiry into Benazir’s assassination after a formal request by then President Asif Ali Zardari to the UN, talks about the startling discoveries made in their findings, holding Musharraf’s government accountable for failing to provide adequate security to Benazir.