NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto returned home knowing the names and cell phone numbers of her possible assassins, she wrote in a book finished just days before her murder at a December election rally.
Bhutto wrote in “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West,” to be released worldwide on Tuesday, that Pakistani officials told her four suicide bomber squads had been sent by Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud, Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza, and two militant groups to kill her.
“I had actually received from a sympathetic Muslim foreign government the names and cell numbers of designated assassins,” said Bhutto, who accused Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf of not doing enough to protect her or investigate the threats.
Bhutto, 54, who twice served as prime minister of Pakistan, said she sent a letter to Musharraf before returning to her homeland in October in which she identified people in the Pakistani intelligence service whom she said would be responsible for her assassination.
“I told him if I was assassinated by the militants it would be due to the sympathizers of the militants in his regime, who I suspected wanted to eliminate me and remove the threat I posed to their grip on power,” Bhutto wrote in the 318-page book published by News Corp.’s HarperCollins.
Bhutto survived a bomb attack — one of the deadliest in Pakistan’s history, killing at least 139 people — when she returned in October after an eight-year exile.
But she was killed after a bomb and gun attack at the end of a December 27 rally ahead of planned January 8 national elections. The polls are now due February 18.
“When I returned, I did not know whether I would live or die,” wrote the mother of three. “I said farewell to my children, husband, mother, staff, friends and family not knowing whether I would ever see their faces again.
“I wanted to reassure them, but I also told them, ‘Remember: God gives life, and God takes life. I will be safe until my time is up,’” said Bhutto, whose father, Pakistan’s first popularly elected prime minister, was hanged by the military in the late 1970s.
Musharraf’s government blamed al Qaeda for killing Bhutto, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy, but many Pakistanis suspect her other enemies, perhaps from within shadowy security agencies, were involved.
After the first attempt on her life, Bhutto wrote that “a cover-up seemed to be under way from the very first moments of the attack” that she said was “clearly meant to appear to be an al Qaeda-style suicide attack.”
“In Pakistan things are almost never as they seem. There are always circles within circles, rarely straight lines. This was meant to look like the work of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and I do not doubt they were involved,” she said.
“But the sophistication of the plan ... suggested a larger conspiracy. Elements from within the Pakistani intelligence service had actually created the Taliban in the 1980s, and certain elements sympathized with al Qaeda ideologically and theologically. Some had recruited or worked for it,” she said.
Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, has now become the de facto leader of his wife’s Pakistan People’s Party. Together with his son and two daughters, they wrote an afterword for Bhutto’s book.
“This book is about everything that those who killed her could never understand: democracy, tolerance, rationality, hope, and, above all, the true message of Islam,” they wrote. “Or maybe they did understand these things and feared them, and thus feared her. She was the fanatics’ worst nightmare.”
Editing by Xavier Briand