Pakistan on a knife-edge

She became the face of hope for a nation desperately seeking the stability of democracy. But last night the world mourned the death of an icon after Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by a suicide bomber.

She became the face of hope for a nation desperately seeking the stability of democracy. But last night the world mourned the death of an icon after Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by a suicide bomber.

Supporters hailed the Muslim world's first female prime minister as a “martyr” as the region threatened to descend into turmoil with disorder breaking out on streets across the country.

Prime minister Gordon Brown added his voice to international condemnation of the murder saying that, despite knowing the dangers she faced, Ms Bhutto “risked everything in her attempt to win democracy in Pakistan”.

She was shot in the neck and body by an assassin who then detonated a suicide bomb as she was driven from the rally in the city of Rawalpindi.


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Supporters erupted in anger and grief after her death, attacking police and burning tires and election campaign posters in several cities. Although the attack was said to carry the hallmarks of Taliban-inspired Islamic extremists, much of the fury was directed against President Pervez Musharraf who was accused of failing to protect her.

Outside the hospital where Ms Bhutto died, some even chanted: “Killer, killer, Musharraf, killer.”

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The threat of assassination had hung over the 54-year-old's head since she returned to Pakistan in October to marshal the opposition. Her homecoming parade was targeted by a suicide attack which killed more than 140.

Speaking last night, Mr Brown said: “This is a sad day for democracy; it's a tragic hour for Pakistan. She has been assassinated by cowards afraid of democracy.

“Benazir Bhutto may have been killed by terrorists but the terrorists must not be allowed to kill democracy in Pakistan and this atrocity strengthens our resolve that terrorists will not win there, here or anywhere in the world.”

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