10/19/2007, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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“I was on the truck with Bhutto when all hell broke loose,” said Shahbaz Bhatti

by Qaiser Felix
The chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) witnessed yesterday’s terrorist attack in Karachi. The death toll now stands at 138 with more than 400 people wounded. Police blame terrorists; for Ms Bhutto’s husband, elements within the government are the culprits.

Karachi (AsiaNews) – “Acts of coward terrorism,” is how Shahbaz Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), described the two bombs attacks that killed 138 people and wounded another 400. The two blasts occurred near the vehicle that was carrying former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto home after eight years in voluntary exile. Mr Bhatti was in the same convoy and suffered only minor injuries. Ms Bhutto was not injured.

“The attack occurred last night, after midnight, when the rally of hundreds of thousand of people was moving towards the tomb of the father of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah,” Mr Bhatti told AsiaNews.

“At one point, in the Karsaz area, there were two explosions near the vehicle that was carrying Ms Bhutto at the top of the convoy. She had just gone into a lower section of the vehicle to rest when the blast occurred. Windows were blown out, a door was blown up and people were dead and wounded all around. When I got off the truck blood and bits of human bodies were scattered all around the scene. These acts of coward terrorism have shocked and saddened all the people of Pakistan. These are days of mourning and pain,” he said.

Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) announced three days of mourning as police launched their investigation into the attacks.

Chief investigator Manzoor Mughal has said he was 100 per cent sure that the incident was a suicide attack.

For Bhatti these attacks “were committed by coward elements who are afraid and feel themselves insecure after the warm and historic reception of Ms Bhutto by the people of Pakistan.”

For the APMA chairman, “extremists are against the restoration of democracy, supremacy of constitution, the sovereignty of Pakistan, the emancipation of women and minorities and the formation of a real modern and democratic state according to the vision of the founding father, Mr Jinnah.”

After the attacks Ms Bhutto was immediately taken to her home in Karachi.

Leaving the airport, Bhutto refused to use a bullet proof glass booth that had been built on the top of the truck taking her to the tomb of Pakistan's founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, to speak to the crowds.

Ms Bhutto has not talked to the media yet, but PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar quoted her as saying that she has demanded the government sack Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Brigadier Ijaz Shah.

Ms Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari told Geo TV (a private TV channel) that he did not think extremist elements were behind these blasts. Instead, he suspects some elements within the government.

President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have condemned the attacks. In separate messages they said that such acts cannot deter the government from its resolve to combat extremism and terrorism.

The international community, including the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations, has condemned the suicide attacks, hopeful that the blasts would not derail the country’s upcoming elections, scheduled for November 15.

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