Sunday, December 30, 2007

MORE PICS & Video – Man Shooting Bhutto Disputes Brigadier Cheema Account & Confirms Close aide Sherry Rehman; Death Premonition; Action Rioters

UPDATE: Dec 31, 2007 ;Pakistan in crisis, awaits election decision

'My mother always said, democracy is the best revenge,' said 19-year-old Bilawal.

ISLAMABAD - PAKISTANI electoral officials hold an emergency meeting on Monday to decide whether to go ahead with a January poll in a nation plunged into crisis by the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Ms Bhutto's party chose her son and husband on Sunday to succeed her, but doubts grew about whether the parliamentary election aiming to shift Pakistan from military to civilian rule would take place as planned on Jan 8. Her 19-year-old son Bilawal, introduced at a news conference in Naudero in the south as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, said the party's long struggle for democracy would avenge her death. 'My mother always said, democracy is the best revenge,' he said. Ms Bhutto's killing in a suicide attack on Thursday stoked bloodshed across the country and rage against President Pervez Musharraf, casting doubts on nuclear-armed Pakistan's stability and its transition to civilian rule.

International help
On Sunday, Mr Musharraf agreed to consider international help for a probe into Ms Bhutto's death in a conversation with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Downing Street said, though Pakistan's interior ministry had earlier rejected such assistance. The unrest has been partly fuelled by controversy over the circumstances of Ms Bhutto's killing, with the government's version - that she smashed her head on her car sunroof during the attack - dismissed by her supporters. Pakistan's stocks were expected to tumble on Monday when trading resumes after three days of mourning. The political turmoil and violence risk frightening off foreign investors and damaging the economy. A former ruling party official said the election in Pakistan, a key United States ally against terrorism, was likely to be delayed for up to two months but Ms Bhutto's party vowed to take part and another opposition party said it probably would too.

The Election Commission, which meets on Monday, said on Saturday its offices in 11 districts in Sindh province in the south of the country had been burned and voting material including electoral rolls destroyed. Security fears in two north-western regions also raised doubts about voting there, it said. US President George W. Bush urged Pakistanis to hold the vote but White House officials said it was up to Pakistan's authorities to determine the timing. The US State Department went further. 'If there is a delay in the elections, we want to make sure a new date is named. We don't want to see an indefinite delay,' said a State Department spokesman, declining to be further identified.
A promising investment story less than a year ago,
Pakistan is now gripped by fears of capital flight if security worsens. The death toll from violence since Ms Bhutto's killing has reached 47.

Calm urged
'Despite this dangerous situation, we will go for elections, according to her will and thinking,' said Ms Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari, made co-chairman of the PPP party with their son Bilawal from the Bhutto home in Naudero, southern Pakistan. However, an official of the former ruling party backing Mr Musharraf said: 'It seems more than likely that elections will be delayed.' The party of Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who like Ms Bhutto is a former prime minister, said it was likely to abandon plans to boycott the poll after the PPP decision. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was planning to see Mr Musharraf in the next 48 hours. Mr Kouchner said he hoped to 'try ... to apply pressure for the election to take place - on what date, I don't know, it's not up to us to say'. But, voicing several diplomats' fears, he added: 'But elections must take place in calm conditions.'
Dispute over death

Mr Zadari rejected a government explanation that his wife was killed when the force of an explosion that engulfed her bullet-proof car smashed her head into a lever on the sunroof as she ducked when shots were fired. The PPP, which says she was killed by a gunman, has said the government must also show hard evidence Al-Qaeda is to blame. Accused Al-Qaeda-linked militants have denied any role but others issued threats against Ms Bhutto when she returned in October. A suicide attack on her motorcade then killed at least 139 people.

ABOVE & BELOW: A young man in dark glasses who later appears to shoot at Bhutto. Close behind him, the man in the WHITE: scarf (both men circled) was, it is suggested, the suicide bomber

A Pakistani television channel broadcast on Sunday grainy still pictures (ABOVE) of what it said appeared to be two men who attacked and killed Ms Bhutto, one firing a pistol. Ms Bhutto had hoped to win power for a third time in the January vote though analysts expected a three-way split between her, Mr Sharif's party and the party that backs Mr Musharraf. Washington had encouraged Ms Bhutto, relatively liberal by Pakistan's standards and an opponent of Islamic militancy. She returned home from self-imposed exile in October, hoping to become prime minister for the third time. Her death wrecked US hopes of a power-sharing deal between her and Mr Musharraf, who took power in a military coup in 1999 but left the army last month to become a civilian president. -- REUTERS, AFP

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Dec 30, 2007

Pakistan poll delay seen, Bhutto's son appointed party chairman

Dec 30, 2007 Pakistan poll delay seen, Bhutto's son appointed party chairman
'It has been decided that Bilawal (Right) will be the chairman and Mr (Asif Ali) Zardari (left) will be co-chairman,' a Pakistan People's Party official said. --

ABOVE: Mr Bilawal 19-year old is an Oxford law student - history would repeat itself - Cycle of hatred & destruction would continue between the rival groups.

ISLAMABAD - BENAZIR Bhutto's party appointed her son and her husband to succeed the slain Pakistani opposition leader on Sunday and a senior official of the former ruling party said an election was likely to be delayed.
Bhutto’s assassination in a suicide attack on Thursday has stoked violence and thrown into doubt the Jan. 8 election, deepening a crisis in the important
U.S. ally against terrorism in it struggle to emerge from military rule. 'It seems more than likely that elections will be delayed,' Tariq Azim Khan, a senior official of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party, told Reuters. The party backs President Pervez Musharraf and ruled until a caretaker government was set up last month. Mr Khan said he expected a six to eight week postponement. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party on Sunday made the important announcement of who was to succeed her. '

It has been decided that Bilawal will be the chairman and Mr (Asif Ali) Zardari will be co-chairman,' one of the party officials said in the southern town of Naudero, where top officials of Bhutto's party were meeting. Mr Bilawal, an Oxford law student, is her 19-year-old son and Asif Ali Zardari is Bhutto's husband. The party was also overwhelmingly in favour of taking part in a Jan 8 general election but had yet to reach a formal decision on participation in it, said party officials, who declined to be identified.
Anger against Musharraf

Anger against Musharraf burns strongly among Bhutto supporters and since her death sporadic violence has erupted, boosting fears about nuclear-armed Pakistan’s stability. Pakistan's stocks are expected to tumble on Monday due to political turmoil and violence, which threaten to scare off foreign investors and damage the economy. Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, financial capital and main port, has been paralysed by a spasm of street violence. Shops have been shuttered, petrol stations closed and railways attacked by angry mobs, bringing transport to a standstill. The death toll from the violence has reached 47. Streets in Karachi were generally quiet and deserted on Sunday, Reuters witnesses said, though a disabled man was burned to death when a petrol station was set on fire.

Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party has dismissed a government statement that Al-Qaeda killed her, saying Mr Musharraf's embattled administration was trying to cover up its failure to protect her. -- REUTERS

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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 December 2007, 08:37

Musharraf cracks down on rioters

Police confront protesters in Pakistan

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has ordered firm action to crack down on unrest following the death of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Mr Musharraf said looters "must be dealt with firmly and all measures be taken to ensure [the] safety and security of the people". Some 38 people have died in violence that has broken out since Ms Bhutto was assassinated on Thursday. Meanwhile, her party has rejected the government's explanation of her death. A government spokesman said her head was slammed against her vehicle by the force of a bomb - but colleagues said she died from bullet wounds.
Troops have been deployed onto the streets to try to quell the violence that has broken out since Ms Bhutto's death. The shells of burned cars littered the deserted streets of Ms Bhutto's home city of
Larkana on Saturday, after overnight rioting. Interior ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said rioting across the country had destroyed 176 banks, 72 train cars and 18 railway stations, while at least 100 prisoners had been sprung from jails.

Election in doubt
Nine election offices in Ms Bhutto's home province of Sindh were also reportedly burned to the ground. Pakistan's election commission called an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the impact on parliamentary elections due on 8 January. Interim Information Minister Nisar Memon told the BBC that "we remain on course for the democratic transition", but that a decision on whether polls should be postponed would be made in consultation with all the political parties.

The government, meanwhile, stood by its account of Ms Bhutto's death. Interior ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said on Friday that she was killed when the force of the bomb blast knocked her head against a fitting on her vehicle. A surgeon who treated her, Dr Mussadiq Khan, said earlier she may have died from a shrapnel wound, while her aides insisted she was killed by two bullets, one of which pierced her head. A spokeswoman for her Pakistan People's Party accused the government of trying to minimise its responsibility for Ms Bhutto's safety, and said the official account was "dangerous nonsense".

Militant blamed
But Brigadier Cheema said: "We gave you absolute facts... corroborated by the doctors' report." He said Ms Bhutto's family was free to exhume her body for a post mortem if it saw fit. Ms Bhutto was buried on Friday at her family's marble mausoleum. Brig Cheema also said Pakistan did not need the help of the international community in investigating the assassination. And he again accused a Pakistani militant, Baitullah Mehsud, of ordering the killing. The tribal leader from South Waziristan, who has close links to al-Qaeda, has denied the accusations through a spokesman. But Brig Cheema said: "We have the evidence that he is involved. Why should he accept that he has done it? It does not suit him. I don't think anybody has the capability to carry out such suicide attacks except for those people."
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Dec 29, 2007

Pakistan's Bhutto was shot in head: aide

ABOVE: The man caught in the Video footage firing shots from behind at Benazir Bhutto and BELOW: The immediate fireball explosion

KARACHI - BENAZIR Bhutto was shot in the head, a close aide who prepared her body for burial said on Saturday, dismissing as 'ludicrous' a government theory that she died after hitting her head on a sunroof during the suicide attack.

ABOVE: Sherry Rehman was in the car behind Ms Bhutto Benazir when Bhutto was shot. Ms Rehman did not see the attacker.

Ms Sherry Rehman a spokesman for Ms Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and close aide, was in the car behind her at the end of a political rally when an attacker fired shots at the opposition leader and then blew himself up. Security officials said after the assassination on Thursday that Ms Bhutto had been shot in the neck and head. But on Friday, the government said she died when the force of the blast smashed her head on a sunroof lever. 'She has a bullet wound at the back of her head on the left side. It came out the other. That was a very large wound, and she bled profusely through that,' said Ms Rehman, who suffered a severe whiplash and leg injuries as the blast threw her out of her car.

'She was even bleeding while we were bathing her for the burial,' she added. 'The government is now trying to say she concussed herself, which is ludicrous. It is really dangerous nonsense.' Ms Rehman said the government had denied Ms Bhutto the security measures she had been asking for. 'It's sad, but it looks like an attempt at either at a cover up or absolving themselves from responsibility, or both,' she said. Ms Rehman did not see the attacker, and was looking the other way just prior to the attack as she and a colleague suddenly noticed they were surrounded by unfamiliar faces. 'We were seeing people who were unfamiliar suddenly wearing Bhutto badges,' she said. – REUTERS

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UPDATE: Dec 29, 2007 - a new twist in the explanation for her death, no gunshot wounds?

Bhutto killing blamed on al-Qaeda
ISLAMABAD (Pakistan) - PAKISTAN accused an Islamic extremist linked to al-Qaeda on Friday of assassinating Benazir Bhutto and sent the army into the streets to quell a frenzy of violence by her furious supporters that left 33 people dead. The interior ministry also said that Ms Bhutto was killed after smashing her head on her car's sunroof while trying to duck, and that no bullet or shrapnel was found inside her. While many grieving Pakistanis turned to violence, hundreds of thousands of others paid their last respects to the popular opposition leader as she was laid to rest beside her father in her family's marble mausoleum. 'I don't know what will happen to the country now,' said mourner Nazakat Soomro, 32

Ms Bhutto's death and the ensuing violence raised concerns that this nuclear-armed nation, plagued by chaos and the growing threat from Islamic militants even before the killing, was in danger of spinning out of control. The government blamed Ms Bhutto's killing on al-Qaida militants operating with increasing impunity in the lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan and said it would hunt down those responsible for her death. 'They will definitely be brought to justice,' Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said.

The government released a transcript on Friday of a purported conversation between militant leader Baitullah Mehsud and another militant. 'It was a spectacular job. They were very brave boys who killed her,' Mehsud said, according to the transcript. Mr Cheema described Mehsud as an al-Qaeda leader who was also behind the Karachi bomb blast in October against Ms Bhutto that killed more than 140 people and most other recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Mehsud is thought to be the commander of pro-Taleban forces in the tribal region of South Waziristan, where al-Qaeda fighters are also active. In the transcript, Mehsud gives his location as Makin, a town in South Waziristan. This fall, he was quoted in a Pakistani newspaper as saying that he would welcome Ms Bhutto's return from exile with suicide bombers. Mehsud later denied that in statements to local television and newspaper reporters.

Two inquiries

Mr Cheema announced the formation of two inquiries into Ms Bhutto's death, one to be carried out by a high court judge and another by security forces. She was killed on Thursday evening when a suicide attacker shot at her and then blew himself up as she left a rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near Islamabad. Authorities initially said she died from bullet wounds, and a surgeon who treated her said the impact from shrapnel on her skull killed her.
Killed by blast

But Mr Cheema said she was killed when she tried to duck back into the armoured vehicle during the attack, and the shock waves from the blast smashed her head into a lever attached to the sunroof, fracturing her skull, he said. He showed reporters a videotape of the attack, which showed Ms Bhutto waving, smiling and chatting with supporters from the sunroof as her vehicle sat unmoving on the street outside the rally. Three gunshots rang out, the camera appeared to fall and the video, which Mr Cheema said was filmed by authorities, then stopped. Denying charges the government failed to give her adequate security protection, Mr Cheema said it was Ms Bhutto who made herself vulnerable and pointed out that the other passengers inside Ms Bhutto's bombproof vehicle were fine. 'I wish she had not come out of the rooftop of her vehicle,' he said.

Ms Bhutto's death plunged the nation deep into turmoil less than two weeks before parliamentary elections and sparked deadly rioting that killed at least 33 people, according to an Interior Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. Rioters in the southern city of Karachi torched 500 vehicles, 13 banks, seven gas stations and two police stations, police chief Azhar Farooqi said. The violence killed 13 people, including five people who were burned to death when the garment factory they work in was set ablaze, police said.

A shootout between rioters and police wounded three officers, police said. Another six people suffocated to death in Mirpurkhas, about 300 kilometres northeast of Karachi, when the bank building they were in was set on fire, said Ghulam Mohammed Mohtaram, Sindh's top civilian security official. About 7,000 people in the central city of Multan ransacked seven banks and a gas station and threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas. Media reports said a total of 200 banks were attacked nationwide. Vandals also burned 10 railway stations and several trains across Ms Bhutto's southern Sindh province, forcing the suspension of all train service between Karachi and the eastern Punjab province, said Mir Mohammed Khaskheli, a senior railroad official.

Troops sent into streets

Desperate to quell the violence, the government sent 16,000 troops into the streets of Hyderabad, Karachi and other areas in Sindh.

In Hyderabad, the soldiers refused to let people out of their homes, witnesses said. The army prepositioned 20 battalions of troops for deployment across Sindh if they were needed to stop the violence, according to a military statement. 'We will sternly deal with those who are trying to create disorder,' Mr Cheema said. Paramilitary rangers were also given the authority to use live fire to stop rioters from damaging property in the region, said Major Asad Ali, the rangers' spokesman.

'We have orders to shoot on sight,' he said. Many cities were nearly deserted as businesses closed and public transportation came to a halt at the start of three days of national mourning for Ms Bhutto. Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro said the government had no immediate plans to postpone Jan 8 parliamentary elections, despite the violence and the decision by Nawaz Sharif, another opposition leader, to boycott the poll. 'Right now the elections stand where they were,' he told a news conference. The United States, which sees Pakistan as a crucial ally in the war on terror, was counting on President Pervez Musharraf to proceed with the vote in the hope it will cement steps toward restoring democracy after the six week state of emergency he declared last month. Keeping the election on track was the biggest immediate concern in sustaining an American policy of promoting stability, moderation and democracy in Pakistan, US officials said on Friday.

Ms Bhutto's death left her populist party without a clear successor. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who was freed in December 2004 after eight years in detention on graft charges, is one contender to head the party although he lacks the cachet of being a blood relative from the Ms Bhutto clan's political dynasty. -- AP, AFP= == = == == == = == = == =

Watch the Vido Clip 2 Min 44 s) - Man who shot Bhutto, the Burial & the Rioting & looting continues

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