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Deadly Blasts Disturb Bhutto’s Pakistan Homecoming

Explosions went off near a convoy carrying former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto Thursday as she returned to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile. At least 108 people were reported killed in the blast. A reporter details the chaotic homecoming scene from Karachi.

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  • JONATHAN RUGMAN, ITV News Correspondent:

    She was twice deposed as the Islamic world's first elected woman prime minister. She fled her country eight years ago on corruption charges. But today, with the holy Koran dangled above her, the great survivor of Pakistani politics was home.

    And with her, tears at Karachi Airport, a touch of political theatre, this prodigal daughter pledging to lead 140 million people to the promised land of democracy, and clearly overwhelmed by the task.

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Pakistani Prime Minister:

    I feel very, very emotional coming back to my country. I've dreamt of this day for so many months and years. I counted the hours. I counted the minutes and the seconds just to see this land, to see the grass, to see the sky.

  • JONATHAN RUGMAN:

    Her cavalcade was besieged by supporters in this, her political heartland. Her journey home from the airport expected to take more than 10 hours, so long that she fiddled with her BlackBerry at times, seemingly oblivious to the crowd.

    But tens of thousands of Pakistani security forces are on high alert here. The Taliban and other extremist groups have threatened to kill her. But this hated symbol of modernity is refusing to stay behind bulletproof glass.

    Her father was hanged by the generals. Two of her brothers died in mysterious circumstances. Al-Qaida has tried to kill her at least twice. Yet Benazir Bhutto is back in Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile.

    This morning, aboard Mrs. Bhutto's plane from Dubai, her party officials could not contain their delight, so many surging forward that, at first, the pilot refused to take off.

    Yet Mrs. Bhutto, with her Western ways, her Harvard and Oxford degrees, is a divisive figure. No luggage was allowed in hold in case it was sabotaged. So with fewer than 10 minutes to landing, and those charges of corruption still hanging in the air, I asked her how she felt.

    Are you frightened?

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Pakistani Prime Minister:

    No, I'm not frightened. I've put my faith in God and my faith in the hands of the people of Pakistan. And I'm very focused on what needs to be done. And I really feel so encouraged that such large numbers of people have come and voted with their feet for a moderate Pakistan.

  • JONATHAN RUGMAN:

    Your last government was dismissed amid allegations of corruption. Are you going to assure us and the people of Pakistan that, if you become prime minister again, this time it will be different?

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO:

    Well, I do think that a truth and reconciliation commission is important to go into this. I'm very strongly against corruption. But, unfortunately, anti-corruption laws have been used to crush the political opposition.

  • JONATHAN RUGMAN:

    So you're saying that you were accused of things you didn't do?

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO:

    I'm saying that, unless the constitution of Pakistan is changed, every other prime minister will also be set up for failure and dismissed with charges of corruption, just like Prime Minister Jamali, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and the…

  • JONATHAN RUGMAN:

    And Prime Minister Bhutto.

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO:

    … that's right, and the chief justice of Pakistan. So I feel that we must have a transparent government, and I will do everything for transparency. But at the same time, we need a balance of power between the president and the prime minister to ensure that the people's verdict is not overturned through trumped-up charges.

  • JONATHAN RUGMAN:

    Do you want Musharraf to go?

  • PAKISTANI PROTESTOR:

    Yeah, we want Musharraf to go.

  • PAKISTANI PROTESTOR:

    We want Musharraf to go.

  • PAKISTANI PROTESTOR:

    Must go. We don't want. We want Benazir Bhutto.

  • JONATHAN RUGMAN:

    Yet for all that, she's struck a deal with President Musharraf. He can stay on, if she can run for prime minister.

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