Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto pledged to continue to push for a return to civilian rule in defiance of attackers who killed more than 100 people Thursday. After an Independent Television News report, journalists in Karachi provide an update on the story and the inquiry into the attack.
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Our coverage of the Pakistan story begins with this report from Karachi. The correspondent is Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News. A warning: This story contains some graphic images.
JONATHAN RUGMAN, ITV News Correspondent:
Carnage after midnight, the second of two explosions transforming Benazir Bhutto’s homecoming from carnival to catastrophe. More than 130 dead; Karachi’s hospital in chaos, full to overflowing.
Police say they’ve found the head of one suspected suicide bomber who’d come within just a few feet of Mrs. Bhutto and her bus, which was packed with almost her entire party’s leadership.
Benazir Bhutto was evacuated unharmed, but by this morning, the scene of last night’s assassination attempt was still littered with human remains. Fifty of her own guards among the dead. This armored compartment where she was working on a speech may have saved her life.
At tonight’s chaotic press conference, she said that only three days ago she’d sent President Musharraf the phone numbers of former security officials planning to kill her, that a foreign government had warned her of four separate plots, including the Taliban and al-Qaida, though rogue elements within the state may have deliberately plunged her convoy into darkness.
BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Pakistani Prime Minister:
While I am not blaming the government for the suicide attacks on me, and while I’m not blaming the government for the assassination attacks on me at this stage, nonetheless, we need to have an inquiry as to why the streetlights had been shut, that entire — for hours, the streetlights were shut. I’ve heard the next attack is going to be by placing certain people in the police department near my house in Klipten, and near my house in Larkana, so that there can be an attack on my house and an attack on me.
President Musharraf today sent her his condolences, and she’s not blaming him for what happened. But amid these funeral scenes, who knows whether their joint plan for free elections in January, making her prime minister again, can now go ahead? Though as she told me of her determination to carry on, Mrs. Bhutto’s composure was astonishing.
It was your decision to come back. The president warned you not to come back. Perhaps it was naive?
Well, I know that some people will think it was naive. But I think it was the right decision. Because, as I said, if you fight for something you believe in, a cause you believe in, you have to be ready to pay the price.
And the cause I believe in is to save Pakistan by saving democracy and involving the people of Pakistan in the affairs of their nation. If I had not gone down, come back, I think that would have been the wrong decision.
Those who died in her place are filling hospital corridors here, where relatives search for those they’ve lost. This morgue is littered with soiled sheets, the floors caked in blood. So many thousands gathering around their returning heroine, home from exile, that any attack was bound to take a heavy toll.
“I’m glad she is here,” said this man. “She cares for the poor. The government should have protected her.” And then he takes his 35-year-old son, who’d simply been selling ice when Mrs. Bhutto passed by, away to an ambulance, just one of scores and scores heading for burial today.