How corrupt was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

"I accept all the dangers"

OBITUARY. Benazir Bhutto has opposed the Pakistani military elite and the Islamists for many years. Now this fight is over. Portrait of a not undisputed politician.

Islamabad / DelhiFor decades, Benazir Bhutto had fought for a “western” Pakistan. This fight is now over. Shortly after 2:30 pm Central European Time, Wasif Ali Khan, spokesman for Bhutto's party, appeared in front of the media: “Ms. Benazir Bhutto has died.” A little more than an hour earlier, a suicide bomber blew himself up during a rally by Bhutto's supporters.

The Pakistani politician had always known that she lived dangerously. It was not until October 19 that assassins tried to murder her. She had just returned from exile and was met by her supporters at a mass rally when explosives detonated. 139 people died.

At the end of September, CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer asked Bhutto whether she was not afraid of being killed for political reasons like her father. Her answer: “I am an optimist and trust in God. I know the dangers, but I accept them all. "

Benazir's father, Zulfiqar Bhutto, was executed in 1979 on the orders of the then Pakistani military dictator Zia al Haq. As the offspring of a clan of large landowners and the founder of the Pakistan People's Party, Zulfiqar Bhutto was an important figure in Pakistani politics. He had held the office of foreign minister and prime minister. Benazir was 26 years old when her father was executed. She spent five years in solitary confinement, after which she was deported to London.

Benazir Bhutto had trained in expensive private schools and elite universities. At Oxford she was president of the debating club, at Harvard she made her first important political contacts.


Fight against generals

In 1986 she began to get involved in Pakistani politics. She returned from exile and headed the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). When dictator Zia al Haq was killed in an airplane accident in 1988, Bhutto won the elections. But she quickly realized that the army had given up direct control only to continue exercising it indirectly.

In 1990 Bhutto tried to assert himself politically against the generals and was deposed as prime minister. The same thing happened to her successor Nawaz Sharif when he rebelled against his foster fathers in the ISI army intelligence service. He had to leave after three years, Bhutto was the beneficiary. But this time she had learned her lesson. During her second term in office, she let the army and ISI do their thing when they launched the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

Three years later, Bhutto was removed from her post. This time, however, the cause was widespread displeasure with their governance. Bhutto's husband Asif Zardari enjoyed a reputation as the most corrupt man in Pakistan. And there was a rumor that he was behind the murder of Benazir's brother Murtaza Bhutto, who dared to play his sister's opponent.

Now it was Sharif who won the election and covered Bhutto with charges. To avoid a prison sentence, she went into exile again in 1999 - this time to Dubai. She was soon back in good company: Her successor Sharif landed only a little later in Saudi Arabia - sent into the desert by General Pervez Musharraf.


Condemnation in Geneva

The shadows of the past caught up with Bhutto abroad as well. While her husband was in custody in Pakistan, she had to defend herself against allegations of money laundering in Switzerland. In 2004 she was convicted by a Geneva court.

It was the USA's power calculation and the call for more democracy in Pakistan that made it appear as if Bhutto was given another chance to lead Pakistan. That was ruined by their murderers yesterday.

FACTS. Bhutto's party

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The Left Party was founded in 1967 by Benazir Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; he was executed in 1979 on the orders of the then military dictator Zia-ul-Haq. Benazir Bhutto should have led the Pakistani People's Party in the parliamentary elections on January 8th.

("Die Presse", print edition, December 28, 2007)