The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007, saying it killed her as she allegedly planned to collaborate with the US against the ‘mujahideen’ if she returned to power, says a book by the banned terror group.
“The return of Benazir Bhutto was planned at the behest of the Americans as they had given her a plan against the ‘Mujahideed-e-Islam’. Baitullah had received information of the plan,” the book claimed, in a reference to slain Pakistani Taliban founder Baitullah Mehsud.
The Daily Times reported that no group had claimed responsibility for Bhutto’s murder until the claim in the Taliban’s Urdu-language book titled Inqilab Mehsood South Waziristan—From British Raj to American Imperialism.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief Bhutto, 54, was killed in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi shortly after she had addressed an election rally on 27 December 2007. Former president Pervez Musharraf had blamed the Tehreek- e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for the attack but the outfit had denied it.
The book says suicide bombers Bilal, also known as Saeed, and Ikramullah were tasked to carry out the attack on Bhutto. “Bomber Bilal first fired at Benazir Bhutto from his pistol and the bullet hit her neck. Then he detonated his explosive jacket and blew himself up among the participants of the procession,” the book claimed.
TTP leader Abu Mansoor Asim Mufti Noor Wali has written the book and published it on 30 November 2017, at “Maseed Computer Centre in Barmal, in Afghanistan’s Paktika province,” according to details in the book. The 588-page book, which contains many photographs of Taliban leaders, was posted online.
Military people in the know say most of the TTP fighters, belonging to the Mehsud tribe, had crossed into Afghanistan’s Paktika and Paktia provinces after the military launched a major offensive in 2009. The book says the TTP was also involved in a suicide bombing two months earlier at Bhutto’s procession in Karachi in October 2007, which had killed nearly 140 people though Bhutto had escaped unhurt.
It revealed that Baitullah Mehsud had approved the Karachi attack on Bhutto’s procession when she returned to Pakistan to lead her party campaign for the 2008 parliamentary elections. “Despite attacks on Benazir Bhutto’s procession in Karachi, the government had not taken appropriate security measures that made it possible for the attackers to have easy access to Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi,” the book says.
It says Ikramullah, a resident of Makeen town in South Waziristan, escaped from the blast site and is still alive. It does not say if it is the same Ikramullah, who was declared an absconder by an anti-terrorism court along with five others, including TTP chief Mehsud who was killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan in 2009.
Musharraf had been formally charged in the case by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi in August, 2017. The ATC also declared Musharraf an absconder in the case. The court had named Musharraf in the case in February 2011. The former army chief had on a number of occasions denied any involvement in the murder and dismissed the charges as politically-motivated.
Bhutto’s son and PPP co-chairman Bilawal had again blamed Musharraf for his mother’s killing in his speech to supporters on her 10th death anniversary on 27 December last year. The five TTP suspects in Bhutto’s murder case—Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah and Abdul Rashid—were cleared of all charges in the murder trial last August.
The ATC had, however, convicted two police officials Saud Aziz, who was police chief of Rawalpindi when Bhutto was assassinated and Khurram Shahzad, a former Superintendent of Police at Rawal Town. Both were sentenced to 17 years in jail.
In October, 2017, both were granted bail by the Lahore high court. The book says investigators had blamed the TTP for the killing of Bhutto but Baitullah Mehsud had initially denied involvement, insisting that her killers were the same people behind the assassinations of her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and two brothers—Murtaza Bhutto and Shahnawaz Bhutto. It said the TTP leadership had denied any involvement in the murder until Bhutto’s 10th death anniversary.