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‘It was her finest speech’

Everybody I talked to before going to Rawalpindi to attend the rally warned me of such an attack, writes Anees Jillani.

world Updated: Dec 28, 2007 03:41 IST

Few in Pakistan will now be able to forget December 27. Everybody I talked to before going to Rawalpindi to attend the rally warned me of such an attack.

I was astonished to see almost two-thirds of Liaqat Bagh unoccupied. The meeting was to start at 11.30 am but Benazir reached the meeting around 3 pm This was late even by her own standards, but she was probably waiting for the ground to be filled.

After the major candidates from the region made their speeches, she spoke. I have heard many of her speeches and this was perhaps one of her finest, not in terms of the content but for her exemplary delivery. She mostly talked about her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and his achievements and avoided dwelling upon the current political situation in the country. She especially avoided criticizing President Musharraf. She did not name any of her opponents, but instead called them ‘political orphans’.

She finished her speech and quickly returned to her Land Cruiser. The security was good within the meeting premises and nobody was allowed to enter without being frisked at least twice. Everybody had to pass through a scanner.

The assassin, however, approached Benazir's vehicle when it left the Liaqat Bagh precincts and came on the College Road across Gordon Road. Benazir made the fatal mistake to come out of the sun-roof, deciding to wave to the crowd, and was shot. The suicidal bomber then blew himself up. The car carrying Benazir left, without anyone worrying as to what had happened to her.

More than 16 badly burnt out bodies were lying on the College Road. Most spectators were simply hysterical shouting or beating their heads or shocked and dazed.

Benazir was euphoric in her last moments and was happy with her last public rally and her speech. Her assassination has left her nation in a shock that will take decades to shake off.