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Pakistan in Turmoil after Benazir Bhutto's Assassination
Friday, December 28, 2007 :Hundreds and thousands of Pakistanis attend the funeral of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan's political future remains unclear and riots erupted as news of Bhutto's assassination spread across the country. Pakistani President Pervaz Musharraf has blamed Islamic militants for carrying out the assassination but several associates of Bhutto have accused Musharraf himself of having a role. In an e-mail sent to a confidant in the US two months ago, Benazir Bhutto wrote that Musharraf should be held "responsible" if she was assassinated because his government did not do enough to provide for her security. We go to British-Pakistani author and activist Tariq Ali in London and historian Manan Ahmed in Chicago for analysis of the current crisis and Benazir Bhutto's checkered history.
Benazir Bhutto, the twice-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan has just been buried in her home province of Sindh. She was assassinated Thursday evening after a political rally near the capital, plunging the country into a state of chaos.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in her ancestral village for her funeral despite a long night of violence. As news of Bhutto”s death rippled across the country Pakistan was engulfed by riots.
Benazir Bhutto, the 54-year old mother of three, comes from a family steeped in both politics and tragedy. Her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a democratically-elected populist leader in the 1970s who was executed by the military regime of General Zia ul-Haq in 1979. One of her brothers was poisoned and another shot to death.
Bhutto returned to Pakistan this October after being forced from power in 1996 on corruption charges. Her return was brokered by the United States.
But Bhutto”s homecoming was met with a suicide bombing she narrowly survived. 140 people were killed in that bombing.
Bhutto spoke out against the bombing and said she believes government officials might have been involved in the attack.
President Musharraf expressed his condolences to Bhutto"s family Thursday and announced a three day period of mourning. He blamed “terrorists” for the attack and said terrorism was the country’s biggest hurdle.
Nawaz Sharif, once Bhutto"s staunch political rival and also a former Prime Minister, visited the hospital shortly after Bhutto died. He blamed President Musharraf for allowing the “lapses in security” and announced that he would boycott the elections.
Three hours before the attack on Bhutto, gunfire killed four supporters of Nawaz Sharif in a rally outside Islamabad.
Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif announcing his boycott of the elections scheduled for January 8th. The government however has reportedly said it will go ahead with the elections.
President Bush also denounced the attack Thursday and held “murderous extremists” responsible.
Tariq Ali, acclaimed British-Pakistani historian, activist, and commentator joins us now on the phone from London. He is one of the editors of the New Left Review and the author of a dozen books.
Manan Ahmed, historian of Pakistan and South Asian Islam and blogs at Chapati Mystery and at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment
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