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Suicide Attack Ends Benazir Bhutto’s Controversial Life

After a look at recent NewsHour interviews with Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan experts and former colleagues of the late prime minister reflect on her political career, including her election as the youngest and first female Pakistan prime minister in 1988.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in mid-October after eight years of self-imposed exile.

    BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan: I feel very, very emotional coming back to my country. I dreamt of this day for so many months and years.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    As leader of the Pakistan People's Party or PPP, Bhutto was vying for a third term as prime minister in upcoming parliamentary elections. But her triumphant return was cut short when her motorcade was hit by a double suicide attack in Karachi.

    She survived, but some 150 supporters were killed. The Harvard-educated Bhutto first became prime minister in 1988, the first elected woman leader of any Muslim nation. It was a personal triumph for the 35-year-old Bhutto, whose father, a former president, had been executed nine years earlier.

    But in 1990, she was ousted by the president and military amid charges of corruption. She won the prime ministership again in 1993, but was toppled again in 1996 on the same charges. During her years outside Pakistan, Bhutto lived in Dubai and London, and continued to lead her opposition party.

    She returned to Pakistan after Musharraf granted her amnesty from the corruption charges. They had been negotiating a deal that would let Bhutto run for prime minister in free and fair elections, while Musharraf got reelected as a civilian to the presidency he had initially seized in a military coup.

    But, in early November, Musharraf imposed emergency rule and twice placed Bhutto under house arrest. He insisted he did so for her own safety. Just hours after Bhutto's last house arrest was lifted, I spoke with her in the home in Lahore where she had been detained.

    She told me that, despite the threats against her life, she would continue to campaign openly.

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO:

    I can still campaign — not as freely as in the past — but I don't intend to be intimidated by those who threaten to kill me.

    And I see that, in every event where there is a threat to one's core interests, national interests, people send their young men and women to give their lives. America sends their young men and women to Afghanistan, where they risk death. No one turns around and says, don't send our boys because somebody may kill you. So, when there is a cause that is larger than oneself, one has to take the risks.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Let me ask you about a couple of things President Musharraf has said.

    One, he has said that putting you under house arrest and in detention a couple of times was absolutely necessary for your own security, that there have been threats against you, that you have chosen risky spots and venues for rallies and marches. What do you say to that?

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO:

    I say that, if he's worried about threats against me, instead of putting me behind bars, he should get in Scotland Yard or FBI to investigate the militant terrorist attack that took place on my convoy. If he gets independent investigators, then I'm sure the very militants and their backers will be frightened, because they will know that they can be discovered.

    I suspect that elements within the administration are sympathetic to the militants, and they want to eliminate my leadership to prevent democracy from returning to Pakistan and to prevent any political party having a leader with a mass support or nationally that can enable us to build a popular base to confront the terrorists.

     So, what I would like to tell him is that, why do you hesitate to let me file a police report against the murderers? Why do you hesitate to call in Scotland Yard? Call them in. Let the militants know that they can't escape.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So, are you accusing people in his government of complicity in the attacks, essentially the assassination attempt last month?

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO:

    Yes, I suspect elements within the Musharraf administration to have conspired to eliminate me through a terrorist attack. And I suspect elements within the administration who continue to try to eliminate me. I asked for jammers. They gave me some jammers that just don't work.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Bhutto was referring to cell-phone-jamming equipment that was supposed to be used to foil phone-triggered bomb attacks.

    After intense international pressure, Musharraf lifted the state of emergency earlier this month. He was sworn in as a civilian president and said the January parliamentary elections would proceed.

    In recent weeks, Bhutto had accused Musharraf of preparing to rig those elections. But she continued to campaign as head of the country's largest party. She died just a few miles from where her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged at age 51 by the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul Haq. Benazir Bhutto was 54.