Bhutto calls for foreign help to find bombers

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The Independent Online

Benazir Bhutto has called on the Pakistan government to seek help from abroad in its investigation of last week's bomb attack on her convoy that killed more than 130 people and turned her triumphant homecoming from eight years of exile into a night of bloody chaos.

"The international community ... have anti-terrorism expertise to investigate attacks of this nature," the former Prime Minister who is running for office again said yesterday, after attending a prayer ceremony for victims of the attack.

On a third day of mourning for the 139 dead, Ms Bhutto made her first public appearance since she was rushed to safety after her convoy was targeted – apparently by a suicide bomber.

At Karachi's Jinnah Hospital – one of four hospitals that dealt with the dead and injured in the early hours of Friday – Ms Bhutto spent around 15 minutes talking with some of the 300 survivors still being treated and distributing money to them.

Outside the hospital, hundreds of supporters gathered to see her and chanted "Prime Minister Benazir". She then left for a visit to the poor Karachi neighbourhood of Lyari, a stronghold of her Pakistan's People's Party. There, she visited the tomb of a Sufi saint.

Ms Bhutto and her senior aides have spent the last three days frantically trying to decide what the PPP's strategy should be as it prepares to launch its campaign for parliamentary elections. It was planned that Ms Bhutto, 54, would lead the campaign with personal appearances designed to rally the public, much as she had done in 1986 when she first returned from exile to challenge dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. After last week's attack that plan appears very unlikely to go ahead.

Ms Bhutto said the PPP was talking to other political parties to try and draw up an agreed "code of conduct" that took into account the security threat. "We will have to modify our campaign because of the suicide bombings but we are not going to stop our campaign to reach the public," she said.

But plans have already had to be altered. The original itinerary for her return – a homecoming made possible thanks to a power-sharing arrangement reached the country's president, General Pervez Musharraf – envisaged her travelling by convoy to her ancestral home near Larkana. Ms Bhutto still intends to make the visit, during which she will pay her respects at her father's, but it is almost certain she will now fly.

And it is also certain that the scheduled series of rallies across the country will have to be rethought if the PPP is to have any confidence that it can protect Ms Bhutto from further attacks.

Ms Bhutto said she has provided Gen Musharraf with the details of three people the PPP believe were involved in the attacks. She has also demanded an inquiry into why street lights were not working in the part of Karachi where the attackers struck.

"The closet supporters of militants and al-Qa'ida are determined to stop the restoration of democracy because they see it as a threat to the structure of militancy they have put into place," she added. "We want to establish such a society in which mothers must raise children who never carry weapons to kill innocent, poor and weak."

Police continued to question three men arrested in connection with the attack. Officers said the men, who were arrested in the south of Punjab province, were linked to a vehicle believed to have been used by one or possibly two attackers involved in the attack.