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Pakistan mourns its dead in twin blasts at Bhutto rally in Karachi; toll mounts to 139
Benazir blames elements within govt

Afzal Khan and PTI

Islamabad, October 19
Former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto today declined to divulge names but said “remnants” of Gen Zia-ul-Haq had masterminded the bomb attacks on her homecoming convoy in Karachi yesterday which left 139 persons dead and over 500 injured.

Gen’s promise

We are determined to trace those responsible for the attacks and give them exemplary punishment.

— General Musharraf

“I do not blame the Musharraf government but there are elements (she spoke of “three officials”) within the government who are after my blood,” she said at a press conference on the blasts after she returned to Pakistan from her self-imposed exile.

She said they (elements) remained extremely powerful and saw her return to Pakistan and her pledge to restore democracy as a threat to their influence. Her PPP announced that Bhutto will stay in the country despite the attack and continue struggle for democracy.

During the news conference, Bhutto also vowed to live among her people to work for democracy and their welfare. She said the Karachi carnage was an attack on democracy and all political parties must develop consensus to end extremism.

Government and opposition leaders, including President General Musharraf condemned the suicide bombings targeting Bhutto and described it as an attempt to derail the democratic process. 

Opposition leaders, however, blamed the government for conspiring to restrict political activities prior to elections in order to secure desired results. Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Imran Khan also faulted Bhutto for making provocative statements in recent past. Khan said extremism has increased under Musharraf while military operations in Waziristan and Balochistan are killing innocent men, women and children pushing the victims to engage in suicide attacks. Authorities acknowledged that the attack was meticulously planned but did not name any group or individual as responsible but Benazir said she had sent three names within the government to President Musharraf whom she suspected to be planning to assassinate her. 

Bhutto said four suicide squads had been sent by Taliban and Al-Qaida to target her and that she had informed President Pervez Musharraf about “certain individuals” in his government who posed a threat to her life.

She said she had written a letter to Musharraf on October 16 in which she had named three members of the government who should be investigated in the event of any attack on her.

Benazir also said she had been informed that the “next attack” would be carried out by “placing policemen in the garb of workers of a rival party” near her homes in Karachi and Larkana so that her rivals could be blamed.

Despite repeated questions from reporters, Benazir refused to identify the three persons she had named in her letter to Musharraf. She only described them as “certain people, individuals who abuse their positions and powers”.

She said the people who planned the attack “are not Muslims” and that “no Muslim can attack a woman”.

She also said she had been informed by officials of a “brotherly country” that four suicide squads had been sent to target her.“I was told that Taliban, Al-Qaida, the Pakistani Taliban and a group in Karachi were planning attacks on me,” the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief said, adding officials of that country also provided phone numbers of the “handlers” of the suicide attackers to the Pakistan government.

Benazir hoped the authorities would act on this information but said she was aware of the “difficulties” they faced in tackling such militant elements.

The blasts were not “an attack on an individual” but on “what I represent — it was an attack on democracy and on the unity and integrity of Pakistan,” she told the crowded press conference at her Bilawal House residence here.

Benazir also said the streetlights in Karachi were turned off which created problems for her security personnel in identifying the suicide bombers.

“I do not blame the government for this but there should be an inquiry into why the streetlights were turned off,” she said. Replying to a question, she said the internal situation in Pakistan was not handled effectively.

Benazir said Musharraf had spoken to her over the phone after the attack. “Musharraf said sorry that the attack took place. We should unitedly fight this.” Benazir said if anything happens to her, an FIR should be lodged against the three suspects she had named in the letter to Musharraf.

“I do not blame the government but I do suspect some individuals want to eliminate me,” she said. — PTI 

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