Unexplained assassinations

Benazir’s assassination changed Pakistan’s future, but there are others that have altered the course of history.

Zarrar Khuhro December 27, 2010

The gun, the bomb and the poisoned dagger — all have played their part as instruments of the dark art of assassination. Benazir’s assassination changed Pakistan’s future, but there are others that have altered the course of history.


A little over five months after partition, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was gunned down in broad daylight by a Hindu fanatic named Nathuram Godse. Godse, who had links to the radical Hindu Mahasabha organisation, held Gandhi responsible for ‘weakening’ India by insisting on payments to Pakistan and, along with seven co-conspirators, determined to make him pay with his life.


Gandhi’s murder sparked a serious reaction against ‘Hinduvta’ organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Mahasabha, which were only able to recover the lost political ground after several decades. Paying tribute to Gandhi’s legacy is now a rite of passage for all Congress-I leaders.


The first prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan was shot twice in the chest in Rawalpindi’s Company Gardens during a public rally. Khan later succumbed to his injuries in a local hospital despite receiving a blood transfusion.  His apparent assassin Saad Akbar Babrak was shot dead by police immediately afterwards, leaving his true
motives shrouded in mystery.


Company Bagh  was renamed Liaquat Bagh in his honour and he was given the posthumous title of Shaheed-e-Millat.  Speculation as to Babrak’s motives seem to lean towards the theory that Babrak was a Pashtun ultra-nationalist who hoped Khan’s death would pave the way to a united Pakhtunistan. However there are many conspiracy theories claiming that Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination was planned by foreign powers. Some say it was a reaction from the USSR for his anti-communist and pro-western policies, while others blame the USA for ordering the killing due to Khan’s alleged non-cooperation on the Iranian issue and an alleged demand for the US to vacate its airbases in Pakistan.


As JFK’s motorcade crossed Dealey Plaza on November 22nd 1963, the thirty-fifth US president was fatally shot while seated next to his wife Jacqueline.  Kennedy was rushed to the nearest hospital where he was declared dead in the emergency room. Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged shooter, was arrested some 40 minutes later but was killed by Jack Ruby before he could stand trial, sparking decades of controversy and conspiracy theories


Following Kennedy’s death, vice-president Lyndon Johnson became President, forming the Warren commission to investigate the murder. While the commission concluded there was no conspiracy, a subsequent report blasted both the Warren commission, the FBI and the CIA for their sloppy performance and again raised the possibility of a conspiracy. Conspiracy theorists say the list of possible suspects includes the CIA, communist radicals, the Mafia and even former US president Richard Nixon and JFK’s successor Lyndon B Johnson.


The successor to Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar el Sadat was at once feted as a hero for his conduct in the October 1973 war with Israel and reviled as a traitor for his peace accord with the same country. On October 7, 1981 he was attacked by a group of radicals belonging to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (IJ) group and the militant wing of the Jemaa Islamiyya. The killers had successfully infiltrated the armed forces and as Anwar Sadat reviewed a military parade, an IJ activist Khalid Islambouli lobbed three grenades at him and other assassins opened fire. Sadat died in hospital.


Sadat’s killing brought Hosni Mubarak to the presidential seat, a position he holds to this day. In the aftermath of the assassination, massive crackdowns were launched on Egyptian Islamists, and one of the arrested men was Ayman Al-Zawahiri who later cited his experience in Egypt’s jails as a major reason for his radicalisation. The Jemaa Islamiyya (Muslim brotherhood) remains officially banned in Egypt.


The ill-fated mother and son both served as Prime ministers of India and were killed by disaffected ethnic extremists. Indira was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards in revenge for the military operation on the Golden Temple during Operation Blue Star. Less than seven years later, on 21 may 1991, her son Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a female suicide bomber belonging to the Tamil Tigers. Rajiv’s killing had been ordered by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in retaliation for his ordering Indian military operations against the Tamil separatists.


Thousands of Sikhs died in rioting following Indira’s death, and the mantle of prime ministership was taken over by her son Rajiv Gandhi. Following Rajiv’s own death, the LTTE at first denied but then later accepted responsibility. The reaction led to the LTTE being branded a terrorist organization in many countries. Later, a former LTTE leader Karuna Amman called the assassination a ‘big mistake’.


Israeli Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was addressing a mass public gathering in Tel Aviv in 1995 to drum up support for the shaky Israel-Palestine peace process as outlined in the Oslo accords. Rabin had gone from being a soldier and a general known for his hawkish views to a Nobel Peace Prize winner wedded to the idea of peace. As he spoke to the crowd, a Jewish radical named Yigal Amir opened fire, and Rabin later died on an operating room table from blood loss and a punctured lung.


Rabin’s death effectively ended all hopes of an Israeli-Palestinian accord, which is exactly what his assassin intended. While official inquiries all claim Amir was the sole assassin, others claim Rabin’s death was the result of a conspiracy hatched by Israel’s right-wing establishment, citing conflicting film and medical evidence in support of their claims. While the killing was widely condemned in Israel, Yigal is considered a hero by many of the Israeli religious right.


The former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri was killed as a result of a huge explosion that occurred when his motorcade drove past St. Georges Hotel in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.  Hariri, who was also a business tycoon is widely credited with Lebanon’s post-war construction.


Hariri’s death led to the massive protest of the so-called Cedar revolution which resulted in the withdrawal of Syrian troops and the appointment of his son Saad Hariri as Prime minister. A UN investigation resulted in the Mehlis Report which accused high ranking members of the Lebanese and Syrian governments of planning the assassination. Now,the special tribunal on Lebanon is expected to hand down indictments in the investigations soon. Media reports indicate the tribunal plans to indict members of Hezbollah which in turn blames Israel for having carried out the killing — a view shared by Iran, along with several Arab analysts. If Hezbollah is named, the indictments are likely to spur further instability in Lebanon.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2010.


ali raza | 10 years ago | Reply If all the above reffered consequences were to be based for anology, the murder of Shaheed Benazeer has off course benefitted most of the present ruling elite. so can someone rule that the true picture and factsbehind the tragedy could only be clarified once the present regime was no more in power.
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