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Bhutto was worried about security at rally
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December 28, 2007 01:54 IST
Last Updated: December 28, 2007 11:47 IST

Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto [Images] was assassinated in Rawalpindi on Thursday evening soon after she addressed a political rally in the city. According to witnesses, she had left Liaquat Bagh, the venue for her rally, when emotional slogans by her supporters led her to make an appearance via the roof of her car.

She was waving to her supporters when a teenager fired three shots at her and then blew himself up. One of the bullets hit Bhutto in the neck. She was rushed to hospital where she succumbed to her injuries.

This was the second attack on Bhutto's life and it claimed over 30 lives and injured many more. In the first attack, which took place in Karachi on October 18, 135 people were killed and 545 people were injured.

On October 4, Pakistani Taliban 'commander' Baitullah Mehsud had threatened Bhutto, saying his bombers were waiting to 'welcome' her when she returned to Pakistan after eight years in self-imposed exile.

'My men will welcome Bhutto on her return. We don't accept President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto because they only protect US interests and see things through its glasses. They will be acceptable only if they wear Pakistani glasses,' Baitullah was quoted as saying.

The news of Bhutto's death was not disclosed immediately. The blast took place at approximately 5:30 pm. For about half an hour after that, it was reported that she had escaped the attack. Afterwards, reports said she had been hurt and soon, everybody started talking about her death.

Her aide Dr Babar Awan, who has accompanied her to every election rally, told newsmen that Bhutto had been worried about her security. She had raised the issue of her security throughout the day and even during the rally, she sent him notes, expressing her concern about the lack of security.

Dr Awan indirectly accused the Pakistan army of assassinating Bhutto. When asked whether the government could be involved in her assassination, he told the BBC Urdu service: 'I believe those have killed Bhutto are the same people who had killed her father. This time, the procedure was different.'

Bhutto's father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was sent to the gallows by military dictator General Zia-ul Haq in April 1979. However, President Pervez Musharraf [Images] has been the main target for the terrorists.

Bhutto's death has resulted in riots across Pakistan as her party's supporters have taken to the streets. All roads leading to Rawalpindi have been closed.

In the North West Frontier Province, the police used tear gas and batons to control angry protesters.

Long before her arrival in Pakistan on October 18, Bhutto had antagonised the jihadis of Pakistan. She had spoken against jihad and the militants of the Lal Masjid.

Pakistan's Islamic parties have been spewing venom against Bhutto in recent speeches. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam (F), said: 'Benazir is forwarding the agenda of foreign forces on the issue of nuclear energy. But the MMA leadership will foil her agenda. We will impose Shariat in Pakistan...' (Daily Jasara, December 24)

Bhutto's death will benefit Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N) as well as the pro-Musharraf ruling party Pakistan Muslim League (Q). She was a strong political threat to both parties.

Rumours suggest that the January 8 election may be postponed, but that will not be in President Musharraf's interest

The Bhutto family has a strange legacy -- Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged; his sons Shahnawaz was poisoned while Murtaza was assassinated in a police encounter while his sister Benazir was prime minister.

Her death spells crisis for her Pakistan People's Party. At the moment, there is no charismatic leadership that can keep the party united. In fact, the PPP has already split into at least three groups, and may split further and fade into oblivion.

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