The sun will rise every morning of 27th December and life will continue, but Bilawal, Bakhtawar, Aseefa, President Zardari and we workers will never be able to see our leader ever. It was early morning of 17th October when Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was giving goodbye kisses to Bakhtawar and Aseefa in the outer lounge of her house in Dubai. She stood up and again hugged the kids and walked her usual elegant style and sat in the car and I was seated on her left back seat. She opened her car window and kept on waving till moved on the left side of the road.

It was July 2007, when a Central Executive Committee meeting of PPP was held at my house in London where Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had decided to return to Pakistan against all the odds and that she would announce the date of her return in September. Though everyone including the PPP leadership had warned her about the life threats and security issues, she remained firm about her decision without any fear.

Despite having a clear understanding of the severe risks she was going to face, she believed that General Musharraf was using the security issue as a ploy to keep her out of Pakistan, as he feared that it would diminish his power raising the chances of her victory in elections.

Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto announced her return on 14th September, and it ultimately disturbed General Musharraf and his political colleagues who kept emphasising the life threats against her by extremist groups during election campaigns. They also made several offers to her to finalise a power-sharing agreement, but she never agreed to any of these offers. Mr Iqbal Z Ahmed along with a close trusted General came to her and offered her to be the chairperson of Senate, which she declined in my presence and a few others.

Several discrete meetings in 2005 and 2006 in Dubai followed between Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, General Musharraf and his close associates but they never produced a concrete agreement leading to restoration of democracy in the country. Finally, two one-on-one meetings between Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and General Musharraf were held on 24 January 2007 and 27 July 2007 in Abu Dhabi. Few of the advisers of Musharraf and I arranged these meetings. We had direct contacts with General Musharraf’s team. They met again in August and September 2007 when Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto expressed her concerns, which included free and fair elections and lifting of 3rd time ban on the premiership.

Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto frustrated all efforts of General Musharraf to block her return to Pakistan, and she against all threats and security concerns landed at Karachi on 18th Oct 2007 from Dubai while her children stayed behind. She was moved to see the enormous crowd of people waiting at the airport to welcome her, which made her more stoppable. The crowd was so big that it even slowed the progress of her cavalcade to her destination at the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It was where she had intended to address the public.

The party in a meeting held in Dubai had decided for proper security of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and had also announced a committee consisting of MNA Shahban Mirani, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza and a few other retired major Generals to head the physical security of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. The government proposed the name of Mr AD Khawaja, the then SSP, to be approved by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto but one of the highly influential PPP leaders got the name changed from AD Khawaja to Major (Retd) Imtiaz Hussain, the then SSP, who had earlier served with Mohtarma as her physical security officer.

According to notification of Cabinet division, the total responsibility of security of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as former PM was of the Government and the physical security was entrusted to SSP Major (Retd) Imtiaz Hussain. So the physical security, roadside security, close protection in all functions was the sole responsibly of the government not of any PPP leader including me.

The party organised the 18th October cavalcade where police provided some additional security besides the ‘Janisars’ of the party. Despite having extensive security measures, an explosion went off near Karsaz, Karachi close to the armoured truck in which she was riding followed by another much more powerful explosion. Before that, an attempt was made where someone from the crowd tried to pass on a baby child rapped in heavy explosives to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, but fortunately, the baby child could not reach the hands of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. The explosions killed 149 people while 402 were injured. It was a miracle that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto remained safe in this massive attack. I, along with Raja Pervez Ashraf, Aitzaz Ahsan, Christina Lamb and many others, was also present on the top of the truck fully exposed during the attack. My hair was scorched, and the fire burned Raja Pervez Ashraf’s clothes. Though we were not hurt, we did lose many workers who acted as human shields for their beloved leader Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

The police even refused to register the case after Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto attempted to file a complaint. The evidence was hosed away within one hour without securing the vital evidence and against the local and international laws. The case never advanced as the evidence was already destroyed through hosing off the crime scene. Surprisingly, the suspected mastermind of October 18 assassination attempt namely Qari Saifullah Akhtar, along with his two sons and other suspects, were arrested but released after few days claiming lack of evidence against them. He along with his sons subsequently fled to Afghanistan, where he had been running a training camp for Al-Qaeda.

Under the PPP Government, the dormant investigation of the case was activated, but DSP Nawaz Ranjha of Karachi police who was entrusted to investigate the case was mysteriously killed when he was close to the arrest of the attackers.

However, being undeterred of the previous attempt on her life and continuously pouring in security threats, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto decided to keep on leading the election campaign. On 26th December 2007, we along with Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto reached at the airport on the way to Peshawar for addressing an election rally where she addressed massive crowd of people. She was quite happy to have such a successful public gathering at Peshawar. There too, we faced an unsuccessful and foiled murder attempt.

She was fond of chapel kebab, and she asked me to arrange on the way from Peshawar to Islamabad. I remember Ms Naheed Khan sitting her right while I was seated on the left. SMBB made bread role with chapel kebab herself, and she gave me the first one and the other to Naheed Khan and took the last one. We could never think that she would be no more next evening.

On the dark evening of 27th December 2007, our nation was bereaved of the great loss of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto at the hands of those who never wanted Pakistan to progress by a devoted leader like her.

On 27th December 2007, the Interior Ministry issued numbers of warnings concerning possible terrorist attack on the campaign event of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto at Liaquat Bagh. The Government was demanded to take foolproof security measures against the threats, yet it did not take any proper measures or issue specific instructions to the provincial authorities to ensure her protection. The federal government failed to execute the responsibility to protect her by not detailing full and comprehensive security as per the Blue Book.

Due to lack of security of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, the terrorists finally managed to reach the proximity of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and assassinated her through a suicide bomber while she was leaving from Liaquat Bagh after having addressed the public meeting. There is no doubt about who killed her, who conspired and executed the conspiracy and who facilitated their conspiracy. The police under the instructions of the government hosed off the scene after one hour and 20 minutes, which action helped the destruction of vital evidence. After her martyrdom, a golden chapter of Pakistani politics was closed forever; however, none can put her legacy to death.

 

The writer is Chairman of think tank “global eye” & former Interior Minister of Pakistan.

 rmalik1212@gmail .com

@GlobalEye_GSA