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Bhutto Escapes Death on Return to Pakistan

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Bhutto Escapes Death on Return to Pakistan


Bhutto Escapes Death on Return to Pakistan

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

In Pakistan, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto narrowly escaped death this week after her convoy was bombed only hours after she'd returned to her homeland and ended eight years in exile. The attacks have cast a shadow on her plans to help restore democracy to Pakistan and herself to power.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Karachi covering the story.

Soraya, thanks very much for being with us.


SIMON: And what have authorities discovered so far? Mrs. Bhutto is demanding, obviously, the government to investigate the bombings?

NELSON: Well, the investigation itself is expected to take several months. As it is, they still haven't identified more than half of the dead people. Then there were more than 130 dead in that bombing, or the two bombings in fact.

The main questions that Ms. Bhutto has raised - she really wants to understand why the street that she entered with her convoy - and you have to picture there were buses, trucks and just mass of people moving forward in a snail's pace - but there were no lights on the street. And her - she was saying yesterday that the security forces that she employs were having a really hard time seeing anything even though they were using floodlights. So she feels it was orchestrated and she rightfully wants to know where the security forces where that the government was supposed to provide and why these lights were off.

She also has raised questions about why information that was given to the government before her arrival in Pakistan that identified four different groups were targeting her, and also provided phone numbers and contacts for some of these groups, why that was not pursued, and why those people perhaps were not apprehended to - which could have possibly prevented these bombings.

SIMON: Ms. Bhutto has currently come back to Pakistan to be a force. Is this attack, and for that matter the whole maelstrom at this particular point about plots against her and her supporters, going to interrupt her plans to try and reach out to the public?

NELSON: Well, she has publicly stated it will not, that she will continue to pursue this nationwide campaign to pressure the government to bring about democratic reform and then the unspoken plan, which is for her to have a third term as prime minister.

But she also acknowledges that her approach to this will have to change and that she will have to take additional security measures. For example, on the day of the bombings, they had build a bolted - bullet-proofed or armored vehicle for her, and she chose not to stand behind that or behind the protection but instead stand on top and be in the open.

SIMON: President Musharraf, of course, had warned her not to come back quite so soon, but, in a way, doesn't he rely on her safety, too, to hold on to power?

NELSON: Absolutely. He really needs this partnership with her and with her Pakistan People's Party in order to gain more legitimacy with the growing discontent among his own population and also with the West, which feels he's not doing enough to fight terrorism. And that's certainly something that her party and that she, in particular, feels very strongly about.

SIMON: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Karachi, thank you.

NELSON: You're welcome.

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