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Bhutto responsible for the blast: niece

Fatima Bhutto says that her aunt, Benazir Bhutto's return from exile would plunge the country further into turmoil.
AFP | By Danny Kemp, Karachi
UPDATED ON OCT 21, 2007 09:07 AM IST

Benazir Bhutto bears the responsibility for the deaths of 139 people in an attack on her homecoming parade by exposing them to danger for the sake of her own "personal theatre", her estranged niece said.

Newspaper columnist and poet Fatima Bhutto, the granddaughter of late Pakistani premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, also told AFP in an interview that her aunt's return from exile would plunge the country further into turmoil.

"She insisted on this grand show, she bears a responsibility for these deaths and for these injuries," the 25-year-old said at her plush family home in Karachi two days after the bombings.

Fatima Bhutto is the daughter of former Prime Minister Benazir's late brother Murtaza, who was killed by police in Karachi in 1996 amid murky circumstances that led to the collapse of her second term in government.

Murtaza led a left-wing extremist group after military ruler Zia-ul-Haq executed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1979 and then fell out with his sister over what he felt was her betrayal of their father's political legacy.

Murtaza's daughter, often heralded in the Pakistani media as an inheritor of the dynasty's heavy crown and bears a family resemblance to Benazir Bhutto, has recently launched a series of salvos against her aunt.

In the latest Fatima Bhutto accused the opposition leader of protecting herself on her return to Pakistan with an armoured truck, while bussing in hundreds of thousands of supporters despite warnings of an attack.

"They died for this personal theatre of hers, they died for this personal show," she said.

The suicide and grenade blast happened hours after Benazir Bhutto, a two-time premier, flew to Karachi from Dubai. She has blamed Islamic extremists, possibly with links to rogue or former intelligence agents, for the attack.

Her Pakistan People's Party dismissed "senseless accusations" that the 54-year-old was responsible for the deaths, saying it was the government's job to protect its citizens.

"Those who have died, their families are proud of them. The attack was against Benazir Bhutto. All those including ourselves who went there took the risk knowingly," senior party leader Taj Haider said.

Speaking in a sitting room decked with oil paintings of her grandfather, father and other family members -- although not her aunt -- Fatima Bhutto also said her aunt was not the enemy of militancy that she claims to be.

Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan was heavily backed by the United States, which sees the Islamic world's first female premier as a potential partner for President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the "war on terror".

"She talks about extremism and nobody else points out that the Taliban was created under her last government," Fatima Bhutto said, referring to the hardline Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001.

Fatima, educated like her aunt at universities in the United States and Britain, meanwhile condemned the amnesty on corruption charges given to Benazir Bhutto by Musharraf that enabled her to return to the country.

"What this (amnesty) means for this country is very, very frightening," she said.

The younger Bhutto, whose house in the city's seaside Clifton neighbourhood is next door to her grandfather's home, said however that she was not likely to enter Pakistan's turbulent politics any time soon.

She said her newspaper column, which often focuses on political and rights issues, was itself a "political act."

"But as for running for elections, just because I have this last name, I don't think I am entitled to it. I don't think it is a birthright," she said.

"I can't rule anything out for the future, but I think there are a lot of other ways to be political and right now I am choosing this way."

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