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- CNN.com: Benazir Bhutto assassinated
by Nasir Jaffry
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AFP) – Formerpremier was assassinated in a stunning suicide attack Thursday that plunged the Muslim nation deeper into crisis and sparked alarm around the world.
Less than two weeks before general elections, a suicide bomber pierced her security cordon to shoot her in the neck as she left a campaign rally. He then blew himself up, killing at least 20 people, police and party officials said.
The powerful blast tore off limbs and shredded clothes. Many people ran in panic, screaming as they trampled over pieces of human flesh. Puddles of blood dotted the road.
“There was an enormous explosion, and then I saw body parts flying through the air,” said Mirza Fahin, a professor at a local college.
“When the dust cleared, I saw mutilated bodies lying in blood. I have never seen anything so horrible in my life — just parts of human beings, flesh, lying in the road.”
The slaying horrified world leaders who appealed for calm and warned that extremists must not be allowed to destabilise the nuclear-armed nation before the January 8 vote.
UScalled it a “cowardly act” and telephoned his Pakistani counterpart — a crucial ally in the US-led “war on terror” against Islamic extremism — to discuss the crisis.
Unrest broke out across Pakistan as mobs of protesters torched buildings, trucks and shops, blocked roads and uprooted rail tracks. Two people were shot dead in rioting in the eastern city ofand another two were killed in southern Sindh province.
Police and paramilitary forces were put on the highest “red alert” level.
Musharraf, who announced three days of national mourning, urged people to remain peaceful “so that the evil designs of terrorists can be defeated.”
But the attack raises questions about whether the election can go ahead, as well as speculation that Musharraf may re-impose the emergency rule he ended earlier this month.
, another former premier and Bhutto’s biggest political rival, said he would boycott the election and urged Musharraf to resign to “save” the country.
“I demand that Musharraf quit power, without delay of a single day, to save Pakistan,” he told reporters, calling for a nationwide strike.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing, but Bhutto had previously accused elements in the intelligence services of trying to kill her and said she had also received death threats from Islamic militant groups including.
“The attacker fired and then blew himself up,” said one police official who asked not to be named.
“She was waving to the crowd from the sunroof of her car and then there was a blast,” Bhutto spokesman Farhatullah Babar told state television.
Bhutto, 54, became the first ever female prime minister of a Muslim nation when she took the helm in 1988 for the first of her two premierships.
Her father, also a prime minister, was hanged by the military in 1979 after being ousted from power.
Educated at Oxford and Harvard, Bhutto’s return here in October after eight years of self-exile brought hopes of a power-sharing deal with Musharraf.
That optimism was quickly shattered.
Her welcome home parade was hit in the deadliest terror attack in Pakistani history, killing 139 people, while her talks with Musharraf ended in acrimony after he declared emergency rule on November 3.
There were frenzied scenes as hundreds of people mobbed her simple wooden coffin as it was borne uneasily out of the hospital to a waiting ambulance for the journey to the airport.
It had a piece of clear plastic or glass in the lid that allowed people to see her body, wrapped in a white shroud.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Bhutto’s party successor and Zardari by telephone to press US support for the elections to go ahead, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.
World leaders swiftly condemned what neighbour India called an “abominable act.”
“The US strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy,” Bush told reporters.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon described it as a “heinous crime,” and the UN Security Council condemned the “terrorist suicide attack” after meeting in emergency session to discuss the crisis.
Britain called for Pakistanis to show restraint and unity.
But unrest broke out in Karachi, Bhutto’s stronghold, where demonstrators torched scores of vehicles and blocked key roads; in Peshawar in the northwest where police used tear gas and batons to break up crowds; and in the central city of Multan.
Some protesters fired into the air, while others shouted slogans including “Musharraf is a dog.” Violence broke out in other towns including Jacobabad in the south, where shops belonging to relatives of interim premier Mohammedmian Soomro were set alight.
BENAZIR BHUTTO’S INFLUENTIAL LIFE IN PHOTOS:
She was Pakistan’s first Prime Minister. She headed the Pakistan Peoples Party, a centrist-left political party in Pakistan affiliated to the Socialist International. Benazir was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, having been twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was sworn in for the first time in 1988 but removed from office 20 months later under orders of then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan on grounds of alleged corruption.
In 1993 Benazir was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on similar charges, this time by President Farooq Leghari. Benazir went into self-imposed exile in Dubai (UAE) in 1998, where she remained until she returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007, after reaching an understanding with President Pervez Musharraf by which she was granted amnesty and all corruption charges were withdrawn.
She was the eldest child of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Pakistani of Sindhi descent, and Begum Nusrat Bhutto, a Pakistani of Iranian-Kurdish descent. Her father was hanged by the military in 1979 after being ousted from power. Her two brothers were murdered. Her mother is deceased. Benazir was the last of her family line.
After eight years in exile in Dubai and London, Benazir returned to Karachi on October 18, 2007 to prepare for the 2008 national elections, campaigning for a third term in an attempt to unify Pakistan.
En route to a rally in Karachi on October 18, 2007, two explosions occurred shortly after Benazir had landed and left Jinnah International Airport. She was not injured but the explosions, later found to be a suicide-bomb attack, killed 136 people and injured at least 450. The dead included at least 50 of the security guards from her Pakistan Peoples Party who had formed a human chain around her truck to keep potential bombers away, as well as 6 police officers. A number of senior officials were injured. Benazir was escorted unharmed from the scene.
Benazir later claimed that she had warned the Pakistani government that suicide bomb squads would target her upon her return to Pakistan and that the government had failed to act. This time, they not only acted, they were finally successful in taking the life of a chasismatic leader.
She was beloved and revered by many people in Pakistan, and those who heard of her death took to the streets rioting in despair and grief.
Benazir stated she wanted a better life for the future children of Pakistan, a better life than what she and many of her generation lived through.
We will never know what a third term of the former Prime Minister Bhutto might have wrought in her legacy, but, what is known is how she had a tremendous and enduring impact on those in her beloved Pakistan, and around the world.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Rest in peace.