Bhutto Was on a Mission

Just before she returned to Pakistan, I met Bhutto in Washington and raised with her the issue of her personal safety. I suggested that she acquire Dragon Skin, a new type of body armor. She promised to look into it.
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Just before she returned to Pakistan via Dubai this fall, I met Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Washington and raised with her during our exchange the issue of her personal safety. She seemed so determined to return to Pakistan, come what may, that she, at first, dismissed the idea of seeking any special protection for herself. I suggested that she acquire a new type of body armor developed in the United States. She promised to look into it.

Later, when she found out that this would require a license from the US government and that the Government of Pakistan would need to request it, she wrote back to me from her Blackberry that she had decided not to seek the government of General Pervez Musharraf's help in acquiring this body armor. "It seems too complicated" to ask the government for help, she wrote. After the first attack on her procession in Karachi I heard again from her husband about the name of the firm that produced the body armor.

I do not know if she managed to acquire it or not. But the fatal wounds that ended her life in Rawalpindi today were to her head and neck, areas that body armor do not protect. She died, standing up to wave to her followers outside Liaquat Bagh, the meeting ground where she held her final political rally. Her speech there was a defiant, populist one, reminiscent of many that her late father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto delivered at the same venue.

She was hoping to return to power in Pakistan and thus reclaim the moderate center of Pakistani politics. The United States saw her as an important element in the future political stability of the country, and as a potential political partner of President Musharraf in the "war of terror". In the end that was what made her the primary target of the Islamic militants. She was seen as the candidate of the West. And so she paid the heaviest price for her quest to restore democracy to Pakistan.

The issue before President Musharraf is whether he will allow elections to proceed so Pakistan can proceed along the path to democratization. If he does not, then Pakistan faces further turmoil and the "War on Terror" will be lost in the many wars within Pakistan that will surely erupt. Already the other major political party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is reported to have announced its boycott of the elections. The one question that Musharraf is not likely to try to answer is whether he is the right man to lead Pakistan to democracy, having bequeathed it the rise of the Islamist militants and their horrific terrorism that is threatening to tear the country apart.


Shuja Nawaz, is the author of "Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its army, and the wars within" (forthcoming) from Oxford University Press. He regularly appears as a commentator on television, radio, and at think tanks.

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