- Election 2002
The Bhutto-led PPP secured the highest number of votes (28.4%) and won 80 seats (23%) in the national assembly during the October 2002 general elections. The PML-N managed to win only 18 seats. Some of the elected candidates of PPP formed a faction of their own, calling it PPP-Patriots, which was being led by Faisal Saleh Hayat, the former leader of Bhutto-led PPP. They later formed a coalition government with Musharraf’s party, PML-Q.
- Return to Pakistan:
- Possible Deal with the Musharraf Government
In mid-2002 Musharraf implemented a two-term limit on prime ministers. Both Bhutto and Musharraf’s other chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, had already served two terms as prime minister.
In July 2007, some of Bhutto’s frozen funds were released. Bhutto continued to face significant charges of corruption. In an 8 August 2007 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Bhutto revealed the meeting focused on her desire to return to Pakistan for the 2008 elections, and for Musharraf to retain the Presidency with Bhutto as Prime Minister. On 29 August 2007, Bhutto announced that Musharraf would step down as chief of the army. On 1 September 2007, Bhutto vowed to return to Pakistan “very soon”, regardless of whether or not she reached a power-sharing deal with Musharraf before then. On 17 September 2007, Bhutto accused Musharraf’s allies of pushing Pakistan into crisis by their refusal to permit democratic reforms and power-sharing. A nine-member panel of Supreme Court judges deliberated on six petitions (including one from Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest Islamic group) asserting that Musharraf should be disqualified from contending for the presidency of Pakistan. Bhutto stated that her party could join one of the opposition groups, potentially that of Nawaz Sharif. Attorney-general Malik Mohammed Qayyum stated that pendent elite the Election Commission was “reluctant” to announce the schedule for the presidential vote. Farhatullah Babar of Bhutto’s party stated that the Constitution of Pakistan could bar Musharraf from being elected again because he was already chief of the army: “As Gen. Musharraf was disqualified from contesting for President, he has prevailed upon the Election Commission to arbitrarily and illegally tamper with the Constitution of Pakistan.”
My dialogue with Musharraf aims to move the country forward from a dictatorship that has failed to stop the tribal areas from becoming havens for terrorists. The extremists are even spreading their tentacles into Pakistan’s cities.
— Benazir Bhutto, writing for The Washington Post
Musharraf prepared to switch to a strictly civilian role by resigning as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He still faced other legal obstacles to running for re-election. On 2 October 2007, Musharraf named Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani vice-chief of the army starting 8 October 2007, so that with the intent that if Musharraf won the presidency and resigned his military post, Kayani would become head of the army. Meanwhile, Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed stated that officials agreed to grant Benazir Bhutto amnesty from pending corruption charges. She has emphasised a smooth transition and return to civilian rule and asked Pervez Musharraf to shed his uniform. On 5 October 2007, Musharraf signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance, giving amnesty to Bhutto and other political leaders—except exiled former premier Nawaz Sharif—in all court cases against them, including all corruption charges. The Ordinance was signed a day before Musharraf faced the crucial presidential poll. Both Bhutto’s opposition party, the PPP, and the ruling PML-Q, were involved in negotiations beforehand about the deal. In return, Bhutto and the PPP agreed not to boycott the Presidential election.
On 6 October 2007, Musharraf won a parliamentary election to become President. However, the Supreme Court ruled that no winner could be officially proclaimed until it finished deciding whether it was legal for Musharraf to run for President while an Army General. Bhutto’s PPP party did not join the other opposition parties’ boycott of the election, but did abstain from voting. Later, Bhutto demanded security coverage on-par with the President’s. Bhutto also contracted foreign security firms for her protection.
· Return to Pakistan and the Assassination Attempt
Bhutto was well aware of the risk to her own life that might result from her return from exile to campaign for the leadership position. In an interview on 28 September 2007, with reporter Wolf Blitzer of CNN, she readily admitted the possibility of attack on herself.
After eight years in exile in Dubai and London, Bhutto returned to Karachi on 18 October 2007, to prepare for the 2008 national elections.
En route to a rally in Karachi on 18 October 2007, two explosions occurred shortly after Bhutto had landed and left Jinnah International Airport. She was not injured but the explosions, later found to be a suicide-bomb attack, killed 136 people and injured at least 450. The dead included at least 50 of the security guards from her PPP who had formed a human chain around her truck to keep potential bombers away, as well as six police officers. A number of senior officials were injured. Bhutto, after nearly ten hours of the parade through Karachi, ducked back down into the steel command center to remove her sandals from her swollen feet, moments before the bomb went off. She was escorted unharmed from the scene.
Bhutto later claimed that she had warned the Pakistani government that suicide bomb squads would target her upon her return to Pakistan and that the government had failed to act. She was careful not to blame Pervez Musharraf for the attacks, accusing instead “certain individuals within the government who abuse their positions, who abuse their powers” to advance the cause of Islamic militants. Shortly after the attempt on her life, Bhutto wrote a letter to Musharraf naming four persons whom she suspected of carrying out the attack. Those named included Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, a rival PML-Q politician and chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Hamid Gul, former director of the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another of the country’s intelligence agencies. All those named are close associates of General Musharraf. Bhutto had a long history of accusing parts of the government, particularly Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agencies, of working against her and her party because they oppose her liberal, secular agenda. Bhutto claimed that the ISI has for decades backed militant Islamic groups in Kashmir and in Afghanistan. She was protected by her vehicle and a “human cordon” of supporters who had anticipated suicide attacks and formed a chain around her to prevent potential bombers from getting near her. The total number of injured, according to PPP sources, stood at 1000, with at least 160 dead (The New York Times claims 134 dead and about 450 injured).
A few days later, Bhutto’s lawyer Senator Farooq H. Naik said he received a letter threatening to kill his client.