Pakistan marks five years since Bhutto assassination

AFP, LARKANA, Pakistan

Fri, Dec 28, 2012 - Page 6

Pakistan marked the fifth anniversary of the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto yesterday, with her son expected to launch his political career with a speech in the family’s hometown.

Bhutto, twice prime minister, was killed in a gun and suicide attack after an election rally in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistani army, on Dec. 27, 2007. No one has ever been convicted of her murder.

Thousands are expected to gather at the family mausoleum at Larkana in the southern province of Sindh, and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Benazir Bhutto and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, is to make his first major public speech.

The Bhutto family has been a force in Pakistani politics for almost all of the country’s 65-year history.

With a general election due in the spring, analysts say the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is eager to introduce a third generation of the dynasty to the public.

Zardari, who came to power in elections held a month after his wife’s murder, is barred from leading the PPP election campaign. He is also hugely unpopular, tainted by years of corruption allegations.

Though the 24-year-old Bilawal will be too young to stand if elections go ahead as expected in the spring — the lower age limit is 25 — Askari said he could provide a fresh figurehead for the PPP.

The Bhuttos are an almost ever-present element in the rhetoric of PPP leaders, who frequently eulogize the party’s two “martyrs” as champions of the common man.

Bilawal, co-chairman of the PPP with his father, in May accused former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf of “murdering” his mother by sabotaging her security.

A UN report in 2010 also said the murder could have been prevented and accused the Musharraf government of failing to protect Benazir.

The Musharraf regime blamed the killing on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied it before he was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009.