Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani opposition leader, killed in suicide attack
By Salman Masood and Graham Bowley Published: December 27, 2007
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RAWALPINDI, Islamabad: An attack on a political rally killed the
Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto near the capital,
Islamabad, Thursday. Witnesses said Bhutto was fired upon before the
blast, and an official from her party said Bhutto was further injured
by the explosion, which was apparently caused by a suicide attacker.
At least a dozen more people were killed. "At 6:16 p.m. she expired,"
said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Ms. Bhutto's party who was at
Rawalpindi General Hospital where she was taken after the attack,
according to The Associated Press.
Hundreds of supporters had gathered at the rally, which was being held
at Liaqut Bagh, a park that is a common venue for political rallies
and speeches, in Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjacent to the
Amid the confusion after the explosion, the site was littered with
pools of blood. Shoes and caps of party workers were lying on the
asphalt, and shards of glass were strewn about the ground.
Farah Ispahani, an official from Bhutto's party, said: "It is too soon
to confirm the number of dead from the party's side. Private
television channels are reporting 20 dead." Television channels were
also quoting police sources as saying that at least 14 people were
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The attack immediately raised questions about whether parliamentary
elections scheduled for January will go ahead or be postponed.
Bhutto was the target of a suicide attack in October in Karachi when
she returned from exile to Pakistan. That attack, caused by two bombs
exploding just seconds apart, narrowly missed Bhutto but killed scores
of people, including many of her party workers.
The attack is the latest blow to Pakistan's treacherous political
Bhutto, 54, returned to Pakistan to present herself as the answer to
the nation's troubles: a tribune of democracy in a state that has been
under military rule for eight years, and the leader of the country's
largest opposition political party, founded by her father, Zulfikar
Ali Bhutto, one of Pakistan's most flamboyant and democratically
inclined prime ministers.
But her record in power, and the dance of veils she has deftly
performed since her return - one moment standing up to Musharraf, then
next seeming to accommodate him, and never quite revealing her actual
intentions - has stirred as much distrust as hope among Pakistanis.
A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, she brought the backing of
Washington and London, where she impresses with her political lineage,
her considerable charm and her persona as a female Muslim leader.
But with these accomplishments, Bhutto also brought controversy, and a
legacy among Pakistanis as a polarizing figure who during her two
turbulent tenures as prime minister, first from 1988 to 1990 and again
from 1993 to 1996, often acted imperiously and impulsively.
She faced deep questions about her personal probity in public office,
which led to corruption cases against her in Switzerland, Spain and
Britain, as well as in Pakistan.
Bhutto saw herself as the inheritor of her father's mantle, often
spoke of how he encouraged her to study the lives of legendary female
leaders ranging from Indira Gandhi to Joan of Arc.
Following the idea of big ambition, Bhutto called herself chairperson
for life of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, a seemingly odd
title in an organization based on democratic ideals and one she has
acknowledged quarreling over with her mother, Nusrat Bhutto, in the
Saturday night at the diplomatic reception, Bhutto showed how she
could aggrandize. Three million people came out to greet her in
Karachi on her return last month, she said, calling it Pakistan's
"most historic" rally. In fact, crowd estimates were closer to
200,000, many of them provincial party members who had received small
amounts of money to make the trip.
Such flourishes led questioning in Pakistan about the strength of her
democratic ideals in practice, and a certain distrust, particularly
amid signs of back-room deal-making with Musharraf, the military ruler
"She believes she is the chosen one, that she is the daughter of
Bhutto and everything else is secondary," said Feisal Naqvi, a
corporate lawyer in Lahore who knew Bhutto.
When Bhutto was re-elected to a second term as Prime Minister, her
style of government combined both the traditional and the modern, said
Zafar Rathore, a senior civil servant at the time.
But her view of the role of government differed little from the
classic notion in Pakistan that the state was the preserve of the
ruler who dished out favors to constituents and colleagues, he
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