Rawalpindi, Pakistan – It was a frosty winter in North Waziristan, close to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.
Election fever was being felt even in this volatile region, dubbed “terror central”, which had become the focus of the US-led war in Afghanistan.
After spending a few days there, I was on the way back to Islamabad with my cameraman when we heard about the attack on one of Pakistan’s most popular leaders, Benazir Bhutto.
Despite warnings by the government not to return because of the precarious security situation, Bhutto ended her self-imposed exile after a deal with the military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, that paved the way for her to return to Pakistan.
She wanted to return and take part in the elections which could win her a third term as the country’s prime minister.
After landing in Karachi on October 17, a huge crowd welcomed her back to Pakistan, and the procession took her through the heart of the southern city.
A suicide bomber hit that procession, killing more than 125 of her supporters. Bhutto survived the attack, defiant to carry on despite the threats.
On December 27, she held a rally at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi, the venue named after the country’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, who was killed at this very location during a rally in 1951.
After an emotional speech, Bhutto prepared to leave the venue, and emerged from her bomb-proof vehicle to wave to her supporters.
A gun and bomb attack followed. Bhutto was hit. She was taken to the hospital where she died.
The assassination sent a wave of anger through the southern province of Sind, a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stronghold. Mobs set trains on fire and went on a rampage across major cities.
Liked by many, Bhutto also made a lot of enemies. Her critics accused her of not doing enough to stop her husband Asif Ali Zardari from amassing a fortune.
Bhutto’s tragic death washed all that away and made her a ‘martyr’ for the cause of democracy. Her death also led to a sympathy vote for the PPP, founded by her father Zufiqar Ali Bhutto: a majority vote to form the new government.
However, PPP was unable to fill the vacuum left by her death. The new leadership lost considerable support in other provinces and, despite coming into power, it was unable to find the conspirators who played a crucial role in her killing.
Moments after the carnage at Liaquat Bagh, the area was washed clean and, with it, all the forensic evidence that could have provided vital clues.
A decade on, no one knows who the main culprits were.