NEW YORK, Feb 12: “I had become aware that suicide squads might be sent from the North-West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas to try to assassinate me immediately on my return,” former prime minister Benazir Bhutto wrote in her book released on Tuesday in New York, London and Islamabad.
The book “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West” was finished just two days before she was killed. Only her name appears on the cover, although a “reader’s note” by her long-time friend and adviser, Washington political consultant and lobbyist Mark A. Siegel, indicates that he collaborated on the manuscript.
“I had actually received from a sympathetic Muslim foreign government, the names and cellphone numbers of designated assassins,” Ms Bhutto, who was assassinated on December 27 while leaving an election rally in Rawalpindi, wrote. President Musharraf did nothing to ensure her safety and security.
“Gen Musharraf’s regime knew of the specific threats against me, including the names and numbers of those who planned to kill me. It also knew the names of others, including those in his own inner circle and in his party, who we believed were conspiring,” Ms Bhutto wrote in the book.
The most interesting part of Ms Bhutto’s book is her issue with Samuel Huntington who wrote in his book “Clash of Civilisations” that a confrontation between the “West and militant Islam” was inevitable after the Cold War was resolved. Historical inevitability always is a dicey prospect, but Ms Bhutto goes well beyond the typical responses by Muslim political leaders. She argues that a substantial part of the work to be done to avoid such a clash must occur in the Islamic world, where a case needs to be made forcefully for more tolerant strains of Islam that are friendly to modernism and civil society. It says something about the state of affairs in the Islamic world that this is a daring, even singular, position for a political leader to take.
Ms Bhutto asserts in the book that the West cannot treat conflict with the Islamic world as inevitable. Like every form of hopelessness, that’s a destructive -- and self-defeating -- idea. It will take more than simple goodwill and a talismanic invocation of “democracy” to make it otherwise, however. There is a place to begin the discussion, however. It’s with an observation and question.
According to Ms Bhutto, the first assassination bid on her on October 18 after her return to Pakistan from Dubai was an Al Qaeda-style suicide attack.
“It appeared to be an Al Qaeda-style suicide attack, more Muslim-against-Muslim violence linked to the so-called struggle between theology and democracy,” Ms Bhutto said.