Bhutto killing sparks unrest

Sunday 22 September 1996 23:02

Larkana (Reuter) - Demonstrators fought police yesterday outside the ancestral home of Murtaza Bhutto, the last male scion of Pakistan's leading political clan, whose death on Friday threatens to plunge the country into renewed political turbulence.

Murtaza, 42, estranged brother of the Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, died in a hail of police bullets outside his Karachi home. Police said his bodyguards, seven of whom also died, fired first. Murtaza supporters blocked the road yesterday and chanted slogans accusing Ms Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, of conspiring to kill their leader.

Murtaza's widow, Ghinwa, urged supporters to stay calm until a government inquiry had completed its work.

Members of the Bhutto dynasty came together to pay respects to Murtaza. His death has shaken Ms Bhutto, who inherited the leadership of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) from their father, the former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, after his hanging in 1979.

His mother, Nusrat, Ms Bhutto and another daughter, Sanam, laid roses on Murtaza's grave yesterday. Nusrat issued a statement saying Murtaza's death was part of a conspiracy against the Bhutto family. She denied reports that she had implicated Benazir and her husband. Nusrat also lost another son, Shahnawaz, who died, possibly poisoned, in France in 1985. Opposition politicians have also accused Ms Bhutto and her husband of being responsible for Murtaza's death. Ms Bhutto's government prided itself on what it saw as restoration of a semblance of peace to Karachi, where a battle with ethnic militants of the Mohajir National Movement (MQM) cost 2,000 lives last year. Now the leeway Ms Bhutto gave the security forces against the MQM appears to have rebounded. "The Karachi police ... has become a Frankenstein," said the Nation.

Last year Murtaza formed a PPP splinter faction, the PPP-Shaheed [martyr] Bhutto. He spent 16 years in exile heading Al-Zulfikar, accused of hijacking a Pakistani airliner in 1981. He returned in 1993 to face charges arising from his struggle against President Zia ul-Haq, who executed his father. He was later freed on bail.

The PPP-Shaheed Bhutto group posed no threat to his sister's party but officials said it was suspected of being behind bomb attacks last week that killed one person. He retorted that security forces had planted the bombs to discredit him.

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