One year on, Pakistan issues Benazir Bhutto coin

Omar Waraich
Friday 19 December 2008 18:30
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It is difficult to escape Benazir Bhutto's image in Pakistan. Since the former prime minister's assassination in a suicide attack last December, vast portraits have come to adorn government buildings, bridges, billboards and supporters' cars across the country. And now Pakistanis will only have to reach into their pockets to see her face.

Pakistan's central bank will issue a special Benazir Bhutto coin to mark the first anniversary of the former prime minister's assassination in a suicide attack last year in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, an event that convulsed Pakistan and later swept her party to power on a wave of sympathy.

Some 300,000 commemorative ten rupee (nine pence) coins have been minted and will be issued on 27 December, the date of her death. On one side, the coin bears a portrait of Ms Bhutto, in her trademark headscarf. Inscribed under the image in Urdu is the phrase, "Daughter of the East, the honourable martyr Benazir Bhutto".

It will be the first time when a face other than that of the country's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, has appeared on local currency. The coin is the latest in a series of symbolic gestures by the new Pakistani government - led by her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and her widower President Asif Ali Zardari - to keep Ms Bhutto's memory alive.

"A year of Ms Bhutto's assassination is just a few days away," said Farahnaz Ispahani, a PPP spokesman and aide to Mr Zardari. "For all of us in the party, her void is still very much there, both emotionally and her presence to physically guide us - especially during these very difficult times we are facing today."

Since the PPP came to power last March, Islamabad airport has been renamed Benazir Bhutto International Airport and Mr Zardari's hometown of Nawabshah in Sindh province is now known as "The honourable martyr Benazir Bhutto". Benazir Bhutto is also the new name for the old highway that runs past the site of her assassination in Rawalpindi, and the city's hospital where she died.

But for all this attention, some observers lament that there has been little progress in the investigation into her killing. "I think that rather than issue coins and doing meaningless things," said Ayesha Tammy Haq, a popular columnist and talk show host, "they should actually carry out an investigation and find out who is responsible for her death."

At the time, ousted President Pervez Musharraf's government blamed Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and asked Scotland Yard to conduct an forensic investigation. But Mr Zardari and the PPP rejected the last government's findings and has asked the United Nations to conduct its own probe.

Ms Ispahani, the PPP spokesperson, said that the party "felt forced" to take the matter to the United Nations as previous assassinations in Pakistan have never been fully investigated. "We don't want that to happen any more," she added. "That why it was important to take it outside and get an impartial and international investigation."

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