Bhutto's brother held on return from exile

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The Independent Online
MURTAZA BHUTTO, younger brother of Pakistan's Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, was arrested last night when he arrived in Karachi after 16 years of self-imposed exile. Police allowed Murtaza's mother, Nusrat Bhutto, to greet her son when he stepped off a flight from Dubai before whisking him to Landi jail on the outskirts of Karachi.

'He has been arrested and taken away,' Nusrat Bhutto said, choking back tears. She said she tied a good-luck amulet around her son's arm before he was placed in custody.

The arrest crowned Mr Bhutto's second attempt on the same day to return. The first attempt foundered when his sister's government turned away his private jet. Meanwhile their mother, Nusrat, was among thousands of supporters trading blows with airport police in Karachi.

Mr Bhutto, 39, who is wanted in Pakistan on charges of terrorism, last month said he would seek to return home. Police were waiting with two helicopters to whisk him away to jail but he failed to arrive. His mother said his private aircraft, lent by the Syrian government, circled the airport but was refused permission to land. It flew back to Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, where he boarded a commercial flight to Karachi.

His mother, who spent most of the day at the airport awaiting his return, was among some 3,000 supporters who clashed with police and paramilitary forces. They fired into the air, sprayed tear gas and baton-charged the crowd, which tried to break through a gate on to the runway as a flight from Dubai, mistakenly thought to be carrying Mr Bhutto, came in to land. Mrs Bhutto said she was beaten by police as she tried to approach the aircraft and had hit them back.

About 16 people were injured in the melee, four seriously, and more than 20 were arrested. A policeman was stabbed but not seriously hurt.

Benazir, 40, and her brother both claim to be the principal political heir of their father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was deposed as Prime Minister in 1977 and hanged two years later. She took the path of constitutional opposition to the government and is now Prime Minister of Pakistan for the second time. He remained in Damascus and formed the Al-Zulfikar guerrilla group, which has been accused of a number of attacks in Pakistan.

Their mother, who served in Ms Bhutto's first government, sought to reconcile her children before the election last month. Since failing, however, she has backed her son, who won a provincial assembly seat but failed to be elected to the national parliament. Yesterday she said the charges against him were 'rubbish'.

Before leaving Damascus, Mr Bhutto said: 'I am determined to go back home at any cost, even if they hang me at Karachi airport.' He said he had refused a deal offered by his sister's government, under which he would escape jail if he postponed his return for six months.