You can Name Musharraf my assassin If I am killed: Benazir Bhutto


Senior Pakistani journalist Amir Mir’s recently published book “The
Bhutto Murder Trail: From Waziristan to GHQ”, reveals that the slain
PPP leader wanted Pervez Musharraf to be named as her killer in case
of her murder

‘You can name Musharraf my assassin if I am killed.’ Those were the
very words Benazir Bhutto had uttered twice during a one-on-one,
off-the-record conversation with me, hardly a few weeks before her
tragic assassination. My meeting with her had taken place on 13
November 2007 at the residence of Senator Latif Khosa, a few hours
before she had been placed under house arrest by the Punjab
government, in a bid to stop her from leading a long march to
Islamabad against the Musharraf regime. Talking about the attempt on
her life in Karachi on 18 October 2007 after her return from exile,
Benazir Bhutto said that she knew quite well even before returning
home that such a cowardly attempt would be made on her life. ‘And let
me tell you that the Karachi suicide bombings could not have been
possible without Musharraf’s blessing.’

Almost a month after returning home and barely escaping a horrifying
suicide attack on her cavalcade the same night in Karachi, Bhutto had
reached Lahore and was staying at Senator Latif Khosa’s residence in
the Defence area. My meeting with Bhutto actually took place after a
dinner, which was attended by a few senior Pakistani journalists,
including myself.

…..In one corner of the room, there were two armchairs in which we two
settled down… Then she came down to business… ‘I actually want to
share some important information with you, but you must promise me
that you will never quote me as your source.’ I agreed and Bhutto
began, ‘Do you know who was involved in the suicide attack on my
welcome procession on 18 October?’ I replied, ‘Those whom you have
mentioned in your letter to General Musharraf.’ She had another
question for me, ‘Do you know for whom these people work?’ I replied,
‘For Musharraf.’ She probed further, ‘So what does this mean?’

It was now my turn to ask questions. ‘Do you doubt General Musharraf’s
intentions?’ She said: ‘Off the record, I would say I do not doubt his
intentions. I am sure of his involvement and my assumption is based on
reliable information.’ I was taken aback. I asked her, ‘If this is
true, why don’t you make it public?’ She said, ‘I can’t do that
because of the reconciliatory milieu. The general did not want me to
return to Pakistan before the elections, and he is furious that I have
come home before the polls as it could disturb his game plan.’

Bhutto then told me that a couple of weeks before her arrival,
Musharraf had sent her this message, ‘The law and order situation in
Pakistan is awry. Also, the religious fanatics and jehadis are
outraged because of your anti-jehadi statements that were lapped up by
the Pakistani media, especially in the aftermath of the Lal Masjid
episode. So you are advised not to come to Pakistan before the 2008
general elections.’ Then she added, ‘But I conveyed to him in clear
terms that whatever the circumstances, I would definitely come to
Pakistan to lead my party in the polls. In return, I was given yet
another warning: “The government is concerned about your security
since we have credible intelligence information that several
extremists groups and individuals are planning to kill you.”’ She said
that she had pointed out that if the agencies had prior information of
the murder plans, they were, of course, in a position to arrest the
planners as well. Her rebuttal had fetched her no reply from Musharraf
or his administration.

‘I have come to know, following investigations by my own sources, that
the suicide attack on my welcome procession in Karachi, on 18 October
2007, was masterminded by some highly-placed officials in the
Pakistani security and intelligence Establishment. My enemies in the
Establishment had first engaged a jehadi leader linked to al-Qaeda,
Qari Saifullah Akhtar (the ameer of the Pakistan chapter of the
Harkatul Jehadul Islami, who had been involved in a failed coup
attempt against Benazir Bhutto’s government in 1995). He, in turn,
hired one Maulvi Abdul Rehman Otho alias Abdul Rehman Sindhi, a
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militant from the Dadu district of Sindh, to
carry out the Karachi suicide attacks.’ Bhutto said that according to
credible sources Abdul Rehman Sindhi (who was reportedly arrested in
June 2004 from Khuda Ki Basti area in Kotri near the Hyderabad
district of Sindh province for his involvement in the February 2002
suicide car bombing outside the US Cultural Centre building in
Karachi) was mysteriously released by the Pakistani authorities
shortly before her return home, citing lack of evidence to proceed
against him.

I could not help saying, ‘How could Qari Saifullah Akhtar be a suspect
when he himself is behind bars for his alleged involvement in
masterminding the twin suicide attacks on Musharraf in Rawalpindi, way
back in December 2003? As far as I know, Qari is still in jail.’
Bhutto muttered, ‘I also thought so. But his release has already been
confirmed by those close to the Musharraf administration. I
subsequently conveyed to some of Musharraf’s key people, through my
close aides, that various events such as the strange release of a
dreaded jehadi like Qari Saifullah Akhtar, have convinced me that any
attack on me would not be possible without the consent of those in

I asked her whether I could report a few bits of the information she
had shared with me. She smiled and said, ‘The reason I wanted to see
you alone was to pass on some news which you can report. It is related
to the 18 October 2007 terrorist attack. You should, however,
countercheck whatever information I provide, and if you find any
discrepancies, please let me know.’ She continued, ‘Actually, while I
was still in London during the second week of October [2007], I had
been informed by my sources in the [Pakistani] intelligence that there
was every chance of someone trying to kill me; and that the blame
would then be shifted to the jehadis. I had also been informed that
some retired and serving army and intelligence officers had tasked
some jehadi elements with my assassination.

Bhutto continued, ‘When I probed deeper, I was amazed to find that the
handlers had paid thirty million rupees to their agent, Abdul Rehman
Sindhi, so that he could arrange suicide bombers to target my
procession in Karachi. My sources say Sindhi had once worked for the
former chief operational commander of al-Qaeda, Abu Zubaidah, who was
arrested from Faisalabad in March 2002. I was surprised to learn that
a man with such strong connections with al-Qaeda was simply set free
by the security agencies because they claimed that they did not have
enough proof to proceed against him. I had written a letter to
Musharraf before coming to Pakistan, after I had received information
from the Karzai government in Afghanistan, about the plans for my
assassination. I passed on this information to him and had also
furnished the names of some of the people who were directly involved
in the planning of the assassination.’

When I tried to find out the names of the people involved, Bhutto only
said she had put down their names in her letter to Musharraf, besides
naming them in the FIR lodged with the Karachi Police after the
suicide attacks on 18 October 2007, stating that those mentioned in
the letter need to be investigated. According to her, most of those
who had planned and carried out the Karachi bombings were affiliated
with the ISI. These included a close aide of General Pervez
Musharraf—the director general of the IB, Brigadier (retired) Ejaz
Hussain Shah who was earlier the provincial chief of the ISI, Punjab.
‘That Ejaz Shah has close contacts with jehadi elements is not a
hidden fact,’ said Bhutto. ‘It is a reality that [Sheikh Ahmed] Omar
Saeed who is the prime accused in the murder of an American
journalist, Daniel Pearl, was acting as an agent of the ISI and his
handler was none other than Ejaz Shah himself. And it was the same
Shah who had, as home secretary of Punjab, provided asylum to Omar
Saeed for many days before he had finally surrendered.’

Bhutto said that the classified information that had been given to her
by the Karzai government also contained the names and addresses of
some of the people who had been involved in the Karachi suicide attack
and that she had forwarded it to Musharraf, although she later came to
know that the Karzai government had already shared the same
information with the Pakistani authorities. ‘The most tragic part of
the whole episode is this: in spite of having every minute bit of
information about the 18 October assassination bid, no action was
taken, and the Karachi suicide bombings targeting my homecoming
procession were still carried out, resulting in the death of over 170
people, whose only crime was that they were cheering their leader, who
had returned home to struggle for the restoration of democracy.

Bhutto added, ‘It was only after the Karachi attack that I realised
what a blunder I had committed by writing to Pervez Musharraf and
naming his stooges alone. It did not occur to me at that time that I
was in a way signing my own death warrant by not naming my number one
enemy as one of my possible assassins. It later dawned upon me that
Musharraf could have exploited my letter to his advantage.’
‘What does that mean?’ I asked. ‘While writing that letter to General
Musharraf, it never occurred to me that I was actually giving a clean
chit to my worst enemy—a mistake that could bear serious consequences
for me,’ she replied after a pause. Bhutto then said that while
realising her blunder after the Karachi attack, she had already
written yet another letter to someone important, naming her would-be

I had a volley of questions for her. Had she named Musharraf in that
letter; and if yes, why would he hurt her when she was trying to
negotiate with him; and to whom was the letter addressed. She smiled
and said, ‘Mind one thing, Amir Sahib. All those in the Establishment
who stand to lose power and influence in the post-election [2008] set
up are after me, including the general. I cannot give you any more
details at the moment. You can, however, name Musharraf as my assassin
if I am killed.’

I said, ‘God forbid, but as far as we know, General Musharraf had
given the Americans a guarantee for your protection in Pakistan.’ She
replied, ‘No, the general hasn’t given any such assurance to anyone.
And he can be more vindictive than you can imagine. Even otherwise, a
popular politician should never trust a military dictator.’

And the reason for Musharraf’s animosity against her? ‘I have almost
made him shed his military uniform, which was like a second skin to
him,’ she said. (Musharraf had to quit as the Chief of Army Staff on
28 November 2007, almost two weeks after my Lahore meeting with
Bhutto.) ‘Now that I have staged a comeback, the general is between a
rock and a hard place. He is under tremendous pressure to quit the
presidency, shed his military uniform, and go home.’

‘Does that mean that the US wants to get rid of General Musharraf
now?’ She responded, ‘Any such thing would be possible only if the
people of Pakistan want it to happen. The general has a fair idea that
the people are still siding with Benazir and her People’s Party.
That’s why he detests me and wants me to get out of his way, for I am
the biggest hurdle for him.’

I had more questions, ‘If you are so convinced that Musharraf could go
to any extent and that the Karachi attack would not have been possible
without his consent, have you made any move to protect yourself? Will
you ever make this public?’ ‘When it’s time, you will know more about
it. For now, as I told you earlier, you can name Musharraf as my
assassin in case I am murdered.’

‘I hope no such thing ever happens, but even if it does, and I do name
Musharraf as your assassin, what difference is it going to make? In my
personal opinion, you should go public about these facts so that if he
does have any such plans he’ll get defensive and might not proceed
with them.’

Bhutto responded, ‘I believe he would get on the offensive if I made
any such move, and would create even more problems for the party
leadership, especially with regard to my participation in the
forthcoming general elections. But this doesn’t mean I won’t do
anything and let him get away with whatever he wants. I have already
taken into confidence some important people in the right quarters. I
have kept them informed of all these developments as well as my fears,
so that my opponents understand that even if they are able to kill me,
they could always be investigated, just as the former Lebanese prime
minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination was investigated by the United

……It was long after her death that I understood what she had meant
when she had hinted at being in touch with the ‘right quarters’. She
had sent an email to Wolf Blitzer of the CNN, which was dated 26
October 2007, a few days after the Karachi bombings targeting her
welcome procession. Bhutto was eventually killed, her email was made
public, but no action could be taken against her assassin because he
himself was supervising the investigations. …..”

Note: The book has been published by Tranquebar Press, New Delhi, India.

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