It came as a bolt from the blue for Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The death of her younger brother and political foe Mir Murtaza Bhutto in police firing in Karachi on September 20 not only gave the opposition a major handle against her government, but also cast doubts over the future of her government. While the opposition lost no time in calling for Benazirs dismissal, it is not clear what stand her mother Nusrat will take.
Murtaza was returning from a public meeting that evening when the police intercepted vehicles escorting his Pajero for a check. Accounts of what actually happened differ. It is believed that just as the police got caught up in an argument with Murtazas guards, someone (it is not clear who) opened fire. In the ensuing gun battle, two bullets hit Murtaza, who later died along with six party activists.
While Nusrat, who is seriously ill, arrived from London the next morning, Benazir cancelled all her appointments and rushed to Karachi. The prime minister is said to have wailed and screamed when she saw her brothers body at the hospital he was rushed to. She was no doubt aware that the killing could have major political repercussions. Politically, Murtaza was hardly a challenge to Benazir and she still has the support of most PPP workers; but the incident is sure to damage her governments credibility. If the prime ministers brother can be a victim of a police encounter in her home province, it is being pointed out, the safety of ordinary citizens is all the more precarious.
As soon as news of Murtazas death broke, opposition leaders claimed that the government had turned the country into a police state and had failed to curb increasing lawlessness. The Jamaat-e-Islamis Qazi Hussain Ahmed said the incident merited the governments dismissal....