Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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“Taking up the Sword”

By Randall Bennett

Those really guilty are shedding crocodile tears at the judgment pronounced in the Ms. Benazir murder case while laughing themselves all the way to their billion dollar sinecures spread all over the world. One must quote extracts from “Taking up the Sword”, (outskirts Press 2013) written book by security professional extraordinary Randall Bennett of the US Diplomatic Service, Regional Security Officer (RSO) in Karachi from 1998 to 2002 and then the Senior RSO in Islamabad from 2007 to 2008. An outstanding individual by any conceivable measure, Randall’s credibility is way above par.

“Benazir was told by the Police and personal security advisors to do it quick and quiet, and get from the airport to her compound post-haste. She told everyone to back off and that she would be doing a slow motorcade from the airport to her home in Karachi so that all the people who loved her could see her and know she was back to save them from Musharraf. The schedule showed it to be an inch by inch trip taking about 18 hours to traverse the 12 miles. A death wish in anyone’s book and the police were in a panic knowing that this scenario would certainly contain some terrorist attack.. Still, she refused to listen and at the 12-hour mark on: her slow highway journey home, two suicide bombers detonated in the crowd close to her motorcade, killing 140 people and wounding another 500.

Her refusal to be concerned or to listen to security professionals had cost 140 people their lives. She still refused police assistance stating that she did not trust the police and would use her own untrained political associates to handle her security. Her husband Zardari, took over her personal security and hired thugs he had served time in prison with to run her protective security. Protective Security is an art and a science. Special Agents train for years to be professionals who can protect the President, VIP, or in our case, the Secretary of State, most foreign dignitaries visiting the U.S. as well as our Senators and Congresspersons when they travel into foreign countries (CODELS).

These thugs had no training and worse, no understanding of what protection was all about. It made one a bit suspicious about the motive and actual level of concern for Bhutto’s safety to allow untrained criminals to protect such a vital asset and prime target. A couple of responsible people in Bhutto’s entourage asked whether I the RSO, the U.S. Government, or U.S. Special Forces could protect her in-country. Obviously the U.S. had no authority or jurisdiction to protect her in her own country and that left Me, the RSO.

No way! Not only did I not have resources sufficient to properly protect her, but her stubbornness to listen to guidance that was for her own good, and her ego, that led her to a blindness to any danger, would mean that if I took the advisory job, it would be a lose-lose venture, because at some time, her abstinence and refusal to listen to the security professionals would mean that she would be killed. If she remained surrounded by ill-prepared and questionable- loyalty thugs, and also kept the police from doing their jobs, it was only a matter of time before she would be assassinated. My Ambassador being politically smart and savvy briefly loaned me out to the Bhutto loyal few and her “security” chiefs to give them strong advice. In as clear, firm, but friendly and specific a manner as I could, I explained why the U.S. Government could not and would not take on this assignment, moreover Blackwater could not operate in Pakistan because of their high profile and lack of familiarity with the streets, as well as their raising the threat profile and targeting on Benazir just by being here.

I moved on to the methods and tactics they should be employing to protect her and explained to them what a specific and highly- skilled profession “Personal Protection” was. I then told them about the weaknesses I had witnessed on Zardari’s thug patrol including how they watched Benazir instead of the crowd, which allowed the terrorists to get right up next to their target to act. This job bad to be done by Pakistani Protection Professionals. Benazir’s American friend that she said she only trusted her own party people to be around her and that her husband’s security folks could do the job. Strike one. She also decided second, that she was going to keep the police away from her while in movements and put them only on the outer-most perimeter of her security ring because she felt they might try to kill her.

That was total foolishness and strike two. But strike three came when she stated (and only God knows why she would say this certainly knowing better), that no one was going to kill her; that her people loved her and that the Holy Koran prohibited the killing of women and children so she would be safe. How many women and children had already been killed in this idiotic “holy war” and she had already been targeted upon her arrival? What was she thinking?  To believe she wanted to be a martyr yet the size of her ego seemed to contradict that. Her stubbornness and blindness to the facts was almost certainly going to get her killed at some point. About 8 weeks after her initial arrival back in Pakistan that the inevitable occurred. Benazir Bhutto was in Islamabad / Rawalpindi. She had against all recommendations, had some local mechanics cut out a top hatch into the roof of the fully-armored car she had been given to keep here safe.

Everyone told her not to do it because it meant the benefit of the full armoring against bombs and attacks was ruined. Bur, she wanted to be able to stand up through the row and show off to “her people” who loved her and be able to wave at them. Leaving a meeting in the early evening, she was progressing in her vehicle very slowly through the huge crowd that had gathered to see her and she was standing in her socks on the seat, through the hatch, waving to everyone. The idiot body-guards were as usual watching her and not the potential enemy when a man standing 20 feet from the car pulled a gun and had the time to fire two shots at her from an awkward and unprofessional one-handed stance. No one doing protection fired a shot back. He should have been dead the second he reached for his weapon and metal was detected in his hand.

The inept ex-con bodyguards dove for cover. Both shots missed since firing one-handed is the act of an amateur and as Benazir began to duck back through the hatch, the man then detonated his vest bomb practically next to her vehicle as he walked toward it. The forceful blast threw her head into the edge of the locally-cutout hatch and she hit so hard, the steel hatch broke skull fragments that stabbed into her brain and her brain began to bleed internally.

She was dead within minutes. Later, through my police contacts, I quietly obtained absolute Verification pointing to who had orchestrated the act (Baitullah Mehsud) and also was allowed to review Benazir’s body and skull X-rays. I personally saw on the X-ray the bone chip spikes that had penetrated the brain and caused her death. Contrary to the rumor mill, no gunshots hit her. It was that stupid cut-out hatch and faulty security that had brought about what was logically predicted to happen. This was a senseless tragedy. We all knew also that this event would be used by Zardari to further his position and power in politics. Some days it was just harder to accept incompetent loss of life to stupid politics than others” unquote. Leaves very little to the imagination as to who was responsible for provoking inadequate security, was it deliberate or dereliction of responsibility? Neither the two police officers sentenced for long terms nor Musharraf, who can be charged on any number of other counts, can be indicted for her assassination.



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