Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto blamed both “Islamic militant groups” and “certain members of the (Pakistan) government” for the attempt on her life, charging them with trying to thwart the return of democracy to Pakistan. “I am not accusing the government. Only certain people in the government,” she said at a crowded press conference at her family home, Bilawal House, on Friday.
<b1>Two near-simultaneous powerful bomb blasts right in front of the vehicle carrying Bhutto, shortly after midnight on Thursday, killed 136 people and wounded more than 500. The supremo of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) who returned to Pakistan earlier in the day after an eight-year-long exile, was proceeding towards the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah to address a public meeting, surrounded by a sea of celebrating supporters.
No group has yet taken responsibility for what is being described as the worst terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history. But Bhutto revealed that before reaching the country, she had written to President Pervez Musharraf naming “three people and more” who she claimed wanted to eliminate her. “I wrote that letter to put things on record in case I was assassinated,” she said. But the former prime minister refused to reveal the three names, claiming, “I have already said too much.”
Tension was still palpable in Karachi on Friday, with its streets nearly deserted. But barring a few instances of stone throwing, the situation remained peaceful. While PPP leaders blamed the police for a glaring security lapse, Karachi police chief Azhar Farooqi said the PPP was to blame for assembling too large a crowd and wantonly disregarding security regulations.
Bhutto again alluded to possible official involvement in the attack when she said that all the street lights on Sharae-Faisal, the road along which her procession was moving, had been turned off. She alleged that apart from the blasts, shots had also been fired at her vehicle. She said she had been tipped off by a ‘brotherly country’ about such an attack, and feared there would be more in the coming days. “I had provided all this information to the government before coming here,” she said.
She said there was a conspiracy to eliminate her and that the next attack on her would take place at her home, either in Karachi or Larkana. ”Commandoes pretending to be activists of some political party will come and attack me,” she alleged, once again hinting that sections of the government itself were keen to wipe her out of the political scene.