A Hit at the Bambino

Part One: Hosed.

By Maniza Naqvi BenazirLahore1

It’s hard to keep one crime in focus when so many others scream for attention. But every story which has the capacity to wound deeply is a hit. And because someone beloved is killed it lives on. Such a story is usually about a crime and its perpetrators.

The UN commission report on Benazir’s assassination says that in the absence of an “unfettered criminal investigation” in the murder of Benazir Bhutto and in the wake of the “abject failure” of the Government including the one in power now—to carry out an investigation with “vigour and integrity” there is “a proliferation of hypotheses regarding possible perpetrators. The Commission need not address each of these many theories in turn. It is sufficient to note that the proper response is an unfettered criminal investigation – a meaningful search for truth – which has thus far been frustrated.”[1]

Perpetrators. Perps and traitors. Every great box office hit and mythology is about assassins and betrayers. And every hypothesis about Benazir’s murder is about perpetrators and traitors. Every major hypothesis about her murder is about the quest for power by her family, or an international hit job or betrayal by associates. All of these are interlinked to one another –every one of them individually a story fit to play like a serial we've already seen on the screen like at the Bambino Cinema hall. And every story on the screen no matter how many times we’ve already seen it before, though fiction, rings true, is a “hit” because it continues to wound deeply.

The only way to get rid of the pain is to search for the truth.

Hypothesis One:

The Family and Associates: “I spent a life time trying not to be careless.——Never tell anyone outside the family what you’re thinking again. —Women and children can be careless but not men.—-Spend time with your family? –Good. Cuz a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a good man.”

The Godfather video:

Hypothesis Two

Benazir Lahore Press conference November 16, 2007:

When Benazir reneged on the Deal—and General Musharraf declared an Emergency on November 3, 2007 and put her under house arrest first in Islamabad on November 5-9 2007 and then under house arrest in Lahore on November 13, 2007, it was clear that she was not coming back into the fold—despite the threats and reminders made to her by the deal makers. John Negroponte arrived in Pakistan to knock sense into her. She did not meet him and he only spoke to her by phone.

The photograph that accompanies this article and the short video clip here, are of the press conference in Lahore on November 16, 2007 which was held after her house arrest in Lahore was lifted and shortly after her phone conversation with John Negroponte.

It is clear from her tone and from her face what must have transpired in the phone call. It is clear from her face in these photographs that she now knows that her fate is now sealed—the choices before her—as the political being that she is are few. As the daughter of her father–they have been whittled down to two. Either means death. Physical or political. As the daughter of her father, she knows which one—which path she will embrace. There it is, her fate, sealed, etched on her face.

Perps: General Stanley McChyrstal, the US Commander in Afghanistan spoke at a press conference at the Pentagon in May 2010 where he also answered a few question on secret assassination teams. His answers and his career experience seem to suggest as the Nation’s piece suggests that : “Yeah, we’re bumping people off.” General McChyrstal was the head of the secret assassination squad the Joint Special Operations Command which reported to Dick Cheney.

Seymour Hersh, the journalist, made just such an allegation as well in a speech at the University of Minnesota in 2008 and during an interview with an Arab TV channel (and then somewhat fudged these comments later) that the JSOC secret assassination squad which reported to Dick Cheney and was headed by General Stanley McChyrstal was responsible for assassinating Benazir Bhutto.

The cesspool and the swamp: It is not hard to crystallize in one’s imagination who killed Benazir, in the absence of an unfettered criminal investigation. Just keep in mind that Pakistan is infested with the secret spy contractors and networks run by Michael Furlong a former CIA agent; Eric Prince of Xe formerly known as Blackwater. And General Stanley McChrystal the Commanding General who headed the JSOC under Dick Cheney a secret assassination squad for global operations ran assassinations in Iraq and Afghanistan and is conducting a war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is easy to come to some easy answers. Perhaps thinking this way can only be classified as the typical trait of spoilt Pakistanis who blame everything on the US agencies and question the reign of terror which has been unleashed on them by these agencies.

Benazir was delivered into that cesspool and swamp of state and privatized secret agencies and networks –a worldwide swamp which is now almost impossible to drain. Who are the people who thrust Benazir into this cesspool of their own making? Who are the people who used Benazir and promised that they would see the process through for her and ensure a safe return for her? They must be brought to justice. John Negroponte, then the Deputy Secretary of State; Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US Ambassador to the UN; Condoleeza Rice, the former secretary of State who refused to be interviewed by the UN Commission; Richard Boucher, General McChrystal, General David D. McKiernan, General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, Anne Paterson, the US Ambassador to Pakistan who bullied Benazir and pressured her to make nice with General Musharraf; Wendy Chamberlin, Mark Lyall Grant, Husain Haqqani, Asif Zardari, Rehman Malik, General Kayani. and General Musharraf. The deal is a shared crime by all of them. The deal is described in paragraphs twenty-two to forty-three of the UN commission report. The deal that was supposed to ensure “Stability” for the United States wars—and to deliver Benazir to General Musharraf . Benazir in her desperation to return to Pakistan had agreed to be the democratic fig leaf which would allow the Military and Intelligence establishment of Pakistan and the United States to continue to deliver on the war on terror per the wishes of the Bush administration.

It isn’t hard to understand that in the absence of an unfettered criminal investigation how easy and obvious it is to imagine the trigger pullers, the ones who gave the nod. Anyone, looking to do so, can easily connect the dots given the context of the lay of the land in the war on terror in and around Pakistan. The war on terror for which Benazir was delivered.

As the UN commission report has pointed out in the absence of a criminal investigation two and a half years after Benazir’s death—it’s easy to imagine scenarios, given the statements of people who benefited after she died and their dubious credentials to take her place –It doesn't take too much imagination to create the list of criminals involved. Still it’s anybody’s guess who bumped off Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007. But until the persons mentioned in this article appear in a court of law and clear their names—they will be presumed as being guilty for this murder—for the murder of Benazir Bhutto. And history will remember them that way. The criminal investigation must take place. Establishing the murderers is not bigger than anyone. The love and loyalty that Benazir commands are bigger than those that will not allow a criminal investigation to take place. This “ thing”—her murder are not bigger than those who loved her and her murderers are not more powerful nor invincible compared to the loyalty for her that will endure. Her murderers will not go without justice done. History will see them judged—history will remember them as murderers

Hypothesis Three

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King:


The Traitors: And in the absence of an unfettered criminal investigation—the President of Pakistan also stands accused until he does the right thing. Until then–the silence bears witness.

Perhaps only thugs, can drain the cesspool, perhaps only thugs can deal with thugs. And a convent schooled, seven sister college and Oxford trained, favorite daughter of a favorite man who always wanted to be correct and do the loyal correct thing wouldn’t have worked.

What do Dick Cheney, General Stanley McChrystal and Asif Zardari have in common? They love guns—shooting, hunting target practice. And they love a deck of cards. Remember the ad- nauseum focus on a deck of cards in Iraq? Dick Cheney aimed at friends and foe—as has Zardari. What else do they have in common?

The narrative we are given of Benazir’s husband, feeds our unfettered imagination, and it is of a man completely the opposite of a “saint”. We may not like him, it tells us, but damn he’s Michael, and Sonny and Dax all rolled into one.

There’s not a man alive, who having seen The Godfather and the Adventurers doesn’t wish to be Don Carleone, Michael Carleone, Sonny Carleone and Dax Xenos—rolled into one. Zardari seems straight out of the films that were shown at his family’s only business in the seventies—The Bambino Cinema. If one reads everything there is to read about him, he seems to be invented by central casting—of B rate films—-Asif Zardari seems to come from the casting for the hero in a Harold Robbins’ b-rate movie script—The Adventurers: which “tells the tale of a rich playboy, Dax Xenos who uses and destroys everyone who crosses his path. Surely Asif watched this film during those brash and youthful years when he was being his “naughty” self. Before he became Asif Zardari, the polo-playing, playboy husband of a virginal heiress to a political dynasty who against all odds becomes the President—dealing with the thugs in his thuggish manner.

Another film that must have played at the Bambino was The Godfather, the memorable scene from Godfather—when Marlon Brando—playing Don Carleone, the Godfather tells his son—Sonny Carleone—to never to break ranks with him in front of others during a negotiations. Godfather realizes that Sonny in contradicting his father publically in front of the other families about the possibility of the Carleone family getting into the drug trade—has inadvertently signaled to the other families—that there was an alternative to Godfather—that there is light between the Godfather and Sonny. Did such a scenario play itself out for Benazir during the long engagement of deal making with the establishment?

Zardari is an easy target. An easy believable thug like persona. It is easy to accuse the man she married—It’s easy to despise him. Someone that most people considered to being unequal to Benazir’s dignity. We forget that she married him. He was her choice. But most people are not saints and are not confronted with the choices she had to make. Most people who judge her have choices that she never had. Most people who judge her never walked in her shoes.

Paragraph twenty-four of the UN Commission Report says. “The discussions were facilitated by the governments—- of the United Kingdom and the United States, which were deeply involved—– in the process. Both governments GAVE PRIORITY— to ensuring a CONTINUED LEADERSHIP— role for General MUSHARRAF, as THEY believed—- this was vital for—- the ongoing war against terror”.

Paragraph thirty-three says Musharraf was furious that she was breaching the deal, coming back to Pakistan when he thought she would stay away and lend her name to the elections: He and others close to him believed that he had a firm agreement with her that she would return only after the elections, then scheduled for November. “General Musharraf was furious when Ms Bhutto made her announcement and, according to one source, believed that her action represented “a total breach of the agreement”. Other informed sources said that Ms Bhutto seemed equally stunned by General Musharraf’s reaction.”

Who else was furious?

The objective was to keep the war on terror on track. The only way was to keep firmly in place in Pakistan the military leadership that was delivering well— on the war on terror. Specifically, to keep General Musharraf in place. Someone whom even Jon Stewart had endorsed. But General Musharraf had lost his sheen and needed to be given a make-over through a back handed takeover of the biggest political party the PPP. A deal with Benazir which expected her to lend her name to the elections but not her presence and it seemed the perfect solution to hijack the party. But such a deal was an impossiblity because there was no way that a popularly elected government would be able to support the war. Benazir thought that she could get away with promising to play ball with the warriors on terror but then renege when she got to Pakistan.

The fifth column: But the dealers weren’t going to risk putting all their eggs in one basket or show all their cards. They were going to spread the love so to speak. Could it be possible that they were talking with everyone who was ostensibly involved in brokering a deal for Benazir. Could it be possible—could we possibly imagine that they were talking to all of them individually, secretly–playing them against each other just in case Benazir backed out—Were they suggesting to various people that they could step up to the plate should Benazir fail to deliver? How early on had Zardari been considered a replacement for Benazir?

“When Zardari was in Musharraf’s custody in 2004, his Director General of Military Intelligence Nadeem Taj and PPP leader Qasim Zia allegedly tried to convince Benazir Bhutto to let her husband be in the driving seat. Zardari was freed and went to Dubai before returning to Lahore to test the waters and gauge his popularity. But the stalwarts of the PPP still favored Benazir Bhutto and blamed charges of corruption against her on Zardari. Upon her return Benazir Bhutto had complete control over her party.”

How many different politicians were having conversations of their own quietly with Washington amounting to saying “Pick me, pick me—I can deliver. I can be your new Sherriff in that one horse town called Islamabad.” There must have been many irons in that fire—for saving Musharraf and the set up delivering the war on terror. There must have been many side conversations going on simultaneously with other options while the discussions were on going with Benazir Bhutto since 2004—It was obvious that she was squeamish to the arrangement with Musharraf but anxious and desperate to return and be relevant. And she was the ideal candidate—definitely the jewel in the crown. What a coup that would have been and actually was that she had agreed to the deal. But still a risk diversification strategy would have been wise–just in case she backed out. The back pocket options were there the ones who had been tested and reached out to just in case the discussions with Benazir fell apart.

At that time that Benazir began her conversations with General Musharraf—Other auditions were taking place. Just around that time 2004 Musharraf released Zardari from prison and he went off to live in New York. In fact Benazir had been furious at the suggestion made by an emissary of General Musharraf that Asif Zardari should become the PPP Prime Minster while Musharraf would be the President and Benazir could lead the party from Dubai. Benazir had made it clear that she wanted Asif Zardari to have nothing to do with the party—this is a well documented fact. This fact has been overturned by a flimsy will written on a notebook paper in green ink which ostensibly was handed over to Asif Zardari by an unknown person who came from Dubai to Naudero on the day of Benazir’s funeral.

In the considered and carefully worded article by Christina Lamb, Who Murdered Benazir Bhutto: Asif Zardari refers to the Will as the joker in the pack. “He showed me a framed copy of the will. “This was the joker in the pack,” he said. “Whoever killed her wanted a weak PPP minus Benazir. They thought they would get their own choice.”

The Will was the card he pulled out after it was all over and she was dead. Many had delivered her—thinking they would rule. He had managed however, to outwit them all, including her. A miracle. Writes Lamb: Bhutto had told friends that she would not let her husband be involved in politics again. The plan was for him to stay in Dubai. They had lived separate lives for years. He argues this was because in 20 years of marriage, he spent 11 years in jail. But when he was released, instead of Dubai he went to New York, ostensibly for medical treatment.

Is it hard to imagine how many quiet deals Washington DC or its beltway bandits struck with how many different groups around Benazir? Is it hard to imagine? All of them with the objective, of being able to deliver Benazir? Sure, a deal was brokered with Benazir Bhutto —in 2007 which brought her back- but a few more equally important ones as insurance policies and contingency plans must have also been put into place. And perhaps during that process of dealing with Benazir—a few were struck on the sidelines—with the others in the deck of cards—in the proverbial face-book network of cohorts just to diversify the portfolio? At least that’s what it seems like in hindsight.

Along came Benazir willing to play ball to stabilize Pakistan for the war on terror. Then she broke ranks—as was expected but hoped that she would show better sense. No matter—it was becoming clearer and clearer—what with the lawyers movement and elements of her own party in conflict with her— that there was daylight between her and themselves—It is easy to assume that there must have been willing candidates within her own party—who would step up to the plate—arguing by their actions if not their words that in fact Benazir was dispensable. A resentment that she had come back when the struggle had happened without her— Even those in the car with her—would only play second fiddle to her no matter what their credentials in the PPP. Everyone understood, that the PPP was her and she was the PPP, as long as she was back, she was PPP and no one else. A nuisance more than an asset in the war on terror. So it was clear there were others who would keep the deal and in the deal even deliver Benazir. If the deal stuck, deliver her alive. And when she broke the deal deliver her dead.

Perhaps during the time that Asif Zardari was in New York all by himself he was having a few conversations of his own facilitated by Hussain Haqqani as the go between –between the Pentagon and himself? The establishment is always most comfortable with its own. Was Zardari being groomed in jail to take over the PPP? Can it be possible that Zardari having spent eleven years in ISI jails— freed by Musharraf was and is their man? All of the present day President ‘s men including the Prime Minister are all men who were Zia-ul-Haq’s as well. Why has their government not opened a criminal investigation into the murder of Benazir Bhutto two and half years on after her death? They will call their allegiances and their decisions national interest, pragmatism, the art of politics. The people of Pakistan will call them murderers who delivered Benazir unless they hold a criminal investigation into her death. For now it appears that after all Zia-ul-Haq has prevailed.

But the fact remains. The fact that when an unfettered criminal investigation does takes place for the murder of Benazir Bhutto all of these people must answer to the people of Pakistan. If they don’t, the silence will bear witness to their role and the stories will perpetuate about which one fits them best. They already are.

[1] The assassination of Ms Bhutto has led to a proliferation of hypotheses regarding possible perpetrators. These include other governments and Bhutto family members, close associates and security aides. The majority of these hypotheses do not assert any basis in evidence, with some seeking to do no more than name persons believed to have benefited in some way from Ms Bhutto’s death, including those closest to her. The stubborn persistence of these hypotheses is attributable almost entirely to the abject failure of the government authorities at the time to carry out an investigation with vigour and integrity. The Commission need not address each of these many theories in turn. It is sufficient to note that the proper response is an unfettered criminal investigation – a meaningful search for truth – which has thus far been frustrated.”