The teenage son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will succeed her as the leader of the country's largest democratic party, Pakistan People's Party, the party announced today. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 19, assumed not just a new political position, but also a new name to include his mother's last name, a reminder of his tie to the political dynasty that began with his grandfather. He is now the leader -- at least nominally -- of the largest political party in this turbulent nuclear nation.
Bilawal enters into public life with growing public controversy over the circumstances of his mother's death. This new video appears to further contradict Pakistani government reports of what happened.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A newly released video of Benazir Bhutto's assassination and an inconclusive medical report raised new doubts Monday about the official explanation of her death and were likely to intensify calls for an independent, international investigation.
The footage, obtained by Britain's Channel 4 television, showed a man firing a pistol at Bhutto from just feet away as she greeted supporters through the sunroof of her armored vehicle after a rally Thursday. Her hair and shawl then moved upward and she fell into the vehicle just before an explosion -- apparently detonated by a second man -- rocked the car.
Bhutto's aides, including one who rushed her to the hospital, said they were certain she was shot. She was buried Friday without an autopsy.
The government, citing a report from doctors at the hospital where she died, said she was not hit by any of the bullets, but was killed when the force of the blast slammed her head into a lever on the vehicle's sunroof.
As Josh Marshall noted perhaps the best explanation made so far for what seems completely implausible is Bhutto's status as martyr, a concept whose significance is not as well understood in the west.
National Security Analyst Ken Robinson, who worked in U.S. intelligence in Pakistan during the Clinton administration, said he suspects Bhutto's enemies are attempting to control her legacy by minimizing the attack's role in her demise.
"They're trying to deny her a martyr's death, and in Islam, that's pretty important," Robinson said.
Bhutto, he said, threatens to become more influential in death than she was in life. "Her torch burns bright now forever. She's forever young; she's forever brave, challenging against all odds the party in power and challenging the military and Islamic extremism."