108 die in blasts near Bhutto in Karachi - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 10-18-2007, 03:54 PM Thread Starter
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108 die in blasts near Bhutto in Karachi

108 die in blasts near Bhutto in Karachi
By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer
18 minutes ago

A suspected suicide bomber struck Thursday night near a truck carrying former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on her triumphant return to Pakistan after eight years in exile. An official said 108 people were killed and many were wounded although Bhutto escaped unhurt.

Associated Press photographer B.K. Bangash at the scene said he saw between 50 and 60 dead or badly injured people. He said some of the bodies were ripped apart when the blast occurred more than 15 hours into a procession that was carrying Bhutto from the airport to the tomb of Pakistan's founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, where she planned to give a speech.

"People were shouting for help but there was no one to help them out. It smelled like blood and smoke," said Bangash, who was 50 yards from Bhutto's truck when he heard a small blast just before midnight.

He went closer, and "then I saw a big explosion and dozens of people started running," he said. "It was a smaller car that was blown up. Another police van was fire."

He said the area was littered with bodies, many of them motorcyclists who were using their bikes because the roads were blocked.

The bombs exploded just after Bhutto's truck had crossed a bridge about halfway from the airport to the tomb. The truck had come to a halt between a mosque and an office block, and those traveling atop it with Bhutto climbed down, with one man jumping off. The blast shattered windows in her vehicle.

An AP photo showed a dazed-looking Bhutto being helped away.

Bhutto is expected to seek the premiership for an unprecedented third time and partner in ruling Pakistan with U.S.-backed President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Police Chief Azhar Farooqi told Dawn News that Bhutto was rushed from the area under contingency plans.

"She was evacuated very safely and is now in Bilawal House," Farooqi said, referring to Bhutto's residence in Karachi.

The bloodshed dims hopes that Bhutto's return could quickly bring harmony to a country laboring under military rule and wracked by the struggle between religious moderates and extremists.

It will burden Bhutto's talks with Musharraf that raised the prospect of them forming a pro-U.S. alliance after January parliamentary elections.

It could also revive speculation that Musharraf will resort to martial law if the security situation — or his political dominance — are seriously threatened.

Officials at four hospitals reported a total of 108 dead and 150 wounded.

Dr. Seemi Jamali at Jinnah Hospital said it had 34 dead from the blasts.

A man who identified himself only as Dr. Faisal at Liaqat National Hospital reported 40 killed, including a cameraman for Pakistan's ARY network and several police. Civil Hospital reported 29 dead. Two other hospitals reported a total of five dead.

Police officer Raja Umer Khitab put the death toll on 82, including several police officers. "Evidence available at the scene is suggesting it was suicide bombing and he exploded near police vehicles destroying the two police vans escorting Benazir Bhutto's truck."

The United States condemned "the violent attack in Pakistan and mourns the loss of innocent life there," said Gordon Johndroe, foreign affairs spokesman for President Bush. "Extremists will not be allowed to stop Pakistanis from selecting their representatives through an open and democratic process."

The police vehicle appeared to bear the brunt of the blast, provincial Home Secretary Ghulam Mohammed Mohtaram said.

Video from the scene of the blasts showed bodies on the ground under a mural that read "Long Live Bhutto."

Pools of blood, broken glass, tires, motorcycles and bits of clothing littered the ground near where the bombs went off. Men moved the injured away from the fires near the blast site. One bystander came upon a body, checked for signs of life, and moved on, presumably to find more who could be saved.

The wounded were carried in stretchers from ambulances and rushed them into a hospital emergency room. Some were carried in the arms of others. Many of the wounded were covered in blood, and some had their clothes ripped off.

Outside, dozens of people walked around in a daze.

Pickup trucks filled with men rushed away from the scene and others began to run, but many more stayed and milled in between the police vehicle and those of the procession.

The blasts came at the end of a long day that saw tens of thousands of supporters give Bhutto a rapturous welcome at Karachi airport upon her arrival from Dubai amid heavy security.

Bhutto claimed 3 million were on hand, but the crowd looked much smaller — about 150,000. The size reflected the former prime minister's enduring political clout despite eight years in exile.

The security precautions failed to dampen the spirit of huge crowds. Hundreds of buses and other vehicles festooned with billboards welcoming her back were parked bumper-to-bumper along the boulevard from the airport to the city center.

Bhutto had been traveling on a truck equipped with a bulletproof glass cubicle to the tomb of Pakistan's founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, to give a speech.

Authorities had urged her to use a helicopter to reduce the risk of attack. But Bhutto, hated by radical Islamists because she supports the U.S.-led war on terrorism, brushed off the concerns.

"I am not scared. I am thinking of my mission," she had told reporters on the plane. "This is a movement for democracy because we are under threat from extremists and militants."

She was squeezed between other party officials at the front of the truck rather than in the bulletproof cubicle toward the rear. Armed guards escorted the truck.

Bhutto recently courted controversy in Pakistan by saying that she would cooperate with the American military in targeting Osama bin Laden, and authorities warned that Islamic militants could launch suicide attacks and roadside bombings against her.

Asked about such threats on Wednesday in Dubai, Bhutto said Islam forbids suicide bombings and attacks on her. "Muslims know if they attack a woman they will burn in hell," she said.

The provincial government had appealed to Bhutto to abandon plans for a snail-paced grand procession through Karachi, saying it would leave her vulnerable. The government said the main threat was from Taliban and al-Qaida.

"I feel very, very emotional coming back to my country," Bhutto told AP Television News at the airport, as thousands of supporters of her Pakistan People's Party massed outside amid a sea of the party's red, green and black flags.

When she descended the steps of the commercial jetliner, Bhutto was in tears.

"I counted the hours, I counted the minutes and the seconds, just to see this land, to see the grass, to see the sky. I feel so emotionally overwhelmed," Bhutto, who wore a white headscarf and clutched prayer beads in her right hand, told the AP.

"And I hope that I can live up to the great expectations which people here have," she said.

She said she was fighting for democracy and to help this nuclear-armed country of 160 million people defeat the extremism that gave it the reputation as a hotbed of international terrorism.

"That's not the real image of Pakistan. The people that you see outside are the real image of Pakistan. These are the decent and hardworking middle-classes and working classes of Pakistan who want to be empowered so they can build a moderate, modern nation,"

Bhutto, 54, fled Pakistan in the face of corruption charges in 1999. It would take a constitutional amendment for her to be prime minister again; Pakistani law bars leaders from seeking a third term.

Supporters including representatives of Pakistan's minority Christian and Hindu communities and Baluch tribesmen with flowing white turbans, walked toward the airport, while groups of men performed traditional dances, beat drums or shook maracas along the way.

Bhutto paved her route back in negotiations with Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup. Musharraf, whose popularity has waned as violence by Islamic radicals has risen, is promising to give up his command of Pakistan's powerful army if he secures a new term as president.

The talks have yielded an amnesty covering the corruption cases that made Bhutto leave Pakistan in the first place, and could see the archrivals eventually team up to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz welcomed Bhutto's return, saying it would improve the political and help democracy to "flourish."

But Musharraf, who had urged Bhutto to delay while he dealt with legal challenges to his continued rule, stayed silent.

Before boarding her flight from Dubai, Bhutto told reporters that her homecoming felt like a miracle.

"I hope that, as this miracle is happening, that a miracle will happen for the impoverished and poverty-stricken people of Pakistan who are desperate for change, who want safety, who want security, who want opportunity, who want empowerment and employment," she said.
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 10-18-2007, 04:09 PM Thread Starter
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Bhutto Pt.2

Bhutto had paved her route back to Pakistan through negotiations with Musharraf, a longtime political rival whose rule she has often condemned but whose proclaimed mission to defeat Islamic extremism she shares.

The talks yielded an amnesty covering the corruption charges that made Bhutto leave Pakistan, and could lead to a political alliance uniting moderates in parliamentary elections for a fight against militants allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

U.S. officials are believed to still favor Musharraf, despite his sagging popularity, over his two main civilian rivals — Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the elected premier ousted by the general in a 1999 coup and sent back into exile when he tried to return last month.

Washington considers Musharraf a source of stability in a nuclear-armed country fighting militants along the border with Afghanistan, an area where Osaka bin Laden may be hiding.

Still, amid the uncertainty that parliamentary elections will establish a U.S.-friendly government, the United States wants Pakistan to at least keep moving toward democracy — and Bhutto's return could help that goal.

Musharraf had urged Bhutto to delay her return because of political uncertainty in Pakistan, including a pending court challenge to his presidential election victory this month.

The Supreme Court will rule soon on whether he was eligible to compete in the vote by lawmakers, since he also holds the post of army chief. If he is confirmed for a new five-year presidential term, Musharraf has promised to quit the military and restore civilian rule.

Bhutto said there was still a long way to go in political reconciliation with Musharraf, but added that she expected the court to decide in his favor. "If the court did not stop his election, it's unlikely to stop the result of that election," she said.

After flying in, Bhutto declared she returned to fight for democracy and to help Pakistan shake off its reputation as a hotbed of international terrorism.

"That's not the real image of Pakistan. The people that you see outside are the real image of Pakistan. These are the decent and hardworking middle-classes and working classes of Pakistan who want to be empowered so they can build a moderate, modern nation," she said.

Bhutto became leader of the Pakistan People's Party more than two decades ago after the military's 1979 execution of its founder, her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a populist prime minister still exalted by many Pakistanis as the finest leader in the country's 60-year history.

She served twice as the democratically elected prime minister between 1988 and 1996 — the first female premier in the Muslim world — but both governments fell amid allegations of corruption and misrule. After Musharraf seized power, she was charged with illegally amassing properties and bank accounts overseas while in office and she left Pakistan.


Associated Press writers Ashraf Khan in Karachi, Sadaqat Jan and Zarar Khan in Islamabad and Sarah DiLorenzo in New York contributed to this report.
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 10-24-2007, 02:12 AM Thread Starter
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Pakistanis react to Bhutto attack

Pakistanis react to Bhutto attack

Following the deadly double bomb attack on Benazir Bhutto's homecoming procession in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, Al Jazeera spoke to Pakistanis about their reaction to the bombings and what it, and Bhutto's return, mean for their troubled nation.

Essam Fahim, Lahore

Essam says he sees no change in Pakistani
politics despite Bhutto's return
It is more "the return of Bhutto" instead of "the return of Benazir."

And while the difference may hold little significance for most, I think it actually picks up on a very important aspect of Benazir Bhutto's return and may, in part, explain why hundreds of thousands of people came to Karachi to greet her as she landed.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto [her father] is heralded by many as the greatest leader of Pakistan after the initial leadership that led Pakistan to its birth passed away.

The strength that his name and populist message carried can be felt even today. Not only does Benazir know this, she is using it as well and using it to gain sympathy and support in the local population.

It is of no surprise to me that the Pakistan People's party remains the most popular party of the country and that Benazir got such a tremendous welcome upon her return from an eight-year self-imposed exile.

And yet it is only her first day back and we find her return resulting in the loss of more than 130 lives.

Obviously, Benazir is not loved by all and despite heavy security the procession was attacked.

I see this as the first of many incidences to come. Bhutto has not only alienated but angered the Islamist parties that find their homes in the north and the north-west of the country.

If she complies with the promises she has made to the US, we will see only a further worsening of the security situation in the country and a rapid movement towards what some fear may become a civil war if Pakistan's marginalised groups are not brought back into the fold of mainstream society and politics.

I see no major change in Pakistani politics as a result of Bhutto's return.

As many in Pakistan say, the time for a transition to democracy is long gone and what we need is a transformation of the system.

But this can never happen with Musharraf sitting in the post of president. Whether he is in or out of his uniform makes little difference.

Syed Arshad Hussein, Lahore

Syed Arshad says Bhutto's return
will further destabilise Pakistan
I was in my office when Bhutto reached Pakistan but when I watched it at home on television I saw the way the convoy was moving and it was always on the cards that something was going to happen.

As usual only workers and policemen lost their lives. Myself and all my family members were so sad.

In my opinion, the attack on Bhutto's convoy was pre-planned and it was implemented to win sympathy for Bhutto.

I feel really embarrassed when Bhutto talks about democracy.

This attack has made America more conscious about her and she will now try to make America believe that she is the only and best resort for America's policy implementations. This will further increase the pressure on Pakistan.

People are not going to support Bhutto, I assure you, and if her party wins the election, there would be great doubt on such an election's transparency.

We don't want to see Bhutto or Nawaz [Sharif] in power again because she has a feudal mentality and she will surely ban the independence of the media.

Coming back to her own country after having to deal with the so-called "national reconciliation ordinance" does not mean democracy.

The return of Bhutto will destabilise Pakistan more. We have tried her twice and her chapter should be closed now. We must look for some new faces.
Syed Aliyazdan Raza, Karachi

Syed says people in Karachi
are devastated by the attack
There is credible evidence available that suggests President Musharraf, the local government of Sindh and the ISI [Pakistan's intelligence services] had all warned Benazir Bhutto about a possible assassination attack by suicide bombers.

Strangely, she ignored all wise advice and preferred to lead the procession after arriving at Karachi airport.

The people of Karachi are sad over the tragic incident and the loss of so many precious lives.

There is a fair perception that this whole deadly episode could have been avoided, had the procession and other political activities been planned and restricted to a timeframe judiciously.

The lack of co-ordination and distrust between government officials and representatives of PPP [Bhutto's party] may be the key factor.

As almost 90 per cent of the participants came from rural areas of Sindh, NWFP [North West Frontier province], Punjab and Baluchistan, most of the victims were outsiders to Karachi.

Their bodies have been handed over to the group leaders who brought them here.

People are of the opinion that political parties should not endanger lives of their workers and always put them first when organising such activities.

Political workers are the bloodline of any party as their hard work, motivation and dedication help the party to emerge triumphant. Regretfully, their performance and services are usually ignored and discarded when parties reach the top and enter government.

Now, Pakistan is a changed society that has become quite conscious and watchful about foreign intervention.

Benazir has come to Pakistan as a result of a deal sponsored by the US and it is unfair for any party to access power through shortcuts.

Nazia Iftikhar, Lahore

Nazia feels Bhutto has lost her credibility
Her return on the basis of amnesty deal would lead Pakistan again into the Stone Age.

The welcome show organised by her feudal friends is only to attract international attention towards her, in which she succeeded.

In the foreign media she is now being portrayed as a courageous lady who is fighting against terrorism.

But the truth is oppposite. She lost her credibility as true leader in her last tenure and she is only coming back into power with the help of the US and the ruling army.

The bloodshed from hundreds of innocent lives will be used as a symbol of her unseen and non-existent sacrifices in coming elections.

I think in her way to a power-sharing deal she is allied with the corrupt ex-officers and cruel feudal lords, so one can easily foresee Pakistan's future.

Source: Al Jazeera
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 10-24-2007, 02:30 AM
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Well that is appx. 250 that have died around this woman since her return a few days ago, She is HOT and I donot mean in the looks dept.
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