Articles

Dec 28, 2007

On the Road: Pakistan

Thursday, December 27, 2007
On the Road: Pakistan

— Peter Bergen, CNN Terrorism Analyst

We are at JFK airport on the way to Pakistan to report on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto who I first met in 1989 when she was Prime Minister. I was then a young associate producer for ABC News 20/20 and we interviewed her for a story on the legal status of women in Pakistan. She was beautiful and intelligent and had the air of someone who is rarely contradicted.

I met her again a decade later in 1999, first for tea at the Four Seasons hotel in Washington and then at the suburban house of one of her supporters in New Jersey. Then she was very much out in the political wilderness; two years into a self-imposed exile and bedeviled by corruption charges. Many felt her political career was over. I had the sense that official Washington was treating her as something of a pariah.

One story she told me then is relevant to what happened today in Pakistan: She said that a young Saudi militant named Osama bin Laden had bribed some politicians to vote against her in a no-confidence vote in Pakistan’s Parliament in 1989. Al Qaeda has long despised the first woman prime minister of a Muslim country.

And then I met Bhutto for the final time at a dinner at the Mayflower hotel in Washington a couple of weeks before she returned to Pakistan in October of this year. She was in great spirits, enormously charming and dominated the conversation because of her intellect and infectious brio. I spoke with Asif, her husband, who agreed with me when I suggested that the imminent return to Pakistan of his wife was a moment of great triumph for her and her family. Asif agreed but he also warned, “You know there are also dangers in returning. We have agreed that I will remain out the country in case anything goes wrong.” Today something went terribly wrong.

As we are about to get on our flight I can’t help but think that we will arrive in a Pakistan made terribly somber by this tragedy, for this is Pakistan’s Kennedy assassination.

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