Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Assassination in Pakistan Poses Risks Across Mideast

For many Israelis, the assassin who killed Benazir Bhutto removed another barrier shielding the Jewish state from the Islamic bomb.

VIGIL: A candlelight memorial vigil in memory of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto took place in Lahore, Pakistan, this week.

Israel’s media and leadership portrayed the sniper-suicide bombing attack that ended the onetime Pakistani prime minister’s life last week as a blow to hopes for a bridge to the Islamic world. They also suggested that it raised the risk of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb falling into militant Islamist hands.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Bhutto’s death a “great tragedy,” according to The Jerusalem Post. “I saw her as someone who could have served as a bridgehead to relations with that part of the Muslim world with whom our ties are naturally limited,” Olmert reportedly said.

The chaos precipitated by the killing poses dangers beyond Pakistan’s immediate neighborhood, said Jack Rosen, past president of the American Jewish Congress, noting that Pakistan is one of a handful of declared nuclear powers and the only Muslim country with the bomb. Rosen, who was the first American Jewish official to host a Pakistani leader when the AJCongress held a dinner for President Pervez Musharraf two years ago, said he was trying to reach the leadership in Pakistan for an assessment.

“If the government fell into extremist hands, the bomb also falls into the hands of extremists,” Rosen said. “You don’t need to worry about a nuclear Iran; you have a nuclear Pakistan in the hands of extremists.”

Prior to her return from exile last October, Bhutto, 54, had been reaching out to Israel as part of a broader strategy of garnering Western support for her confrontation with the military regime led by Musharraf. The United States had been pressing the Pakistani president into accommodating Bhutto’s push for new elections.

“She wrote me of how she admired Israel and of her desire to see a normalization in the relations between Israel and Pakistan, including the establishment of diplomatic ties,” Dan Gillerman, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, told ynetnews.com, the Web site of the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot.

According to a report in another Israeli daily, Ma’ariv, Bhutto reached out to the Mossad, among other security agencies, for protection.

Bhutto sensed that Musharraf was not fully committed to protecting her, Ma’ariv reported. Among the routine protective requests that Musharraf’s government denied, the report said, were installing darkened windows on all the cars of her convoy and supplying explosive-detection devices.

Israeli authorities favored helping her, Ma’ariv reported, adding that she had also turned to Scotland Yard and the CIA for assistance. Reportedly hesitant to offend Musharraf, Israel’s government had yet to make a decision.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.