October 22, 2007 / 4:42 PM / 13 years ago

Bhutto says her security inadequate in Pakistan

KARACHI (Reuters) - Benazir Bhutto said on Monday Pakistan’s government has not provided adequate security to protect her after an assassination attempt that killed 139 of her supporters and police escort.

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gestures as she talks to members of the media at her residence in Karachi October 22, 2007. Bhutto said on Monday Pakistan's government has not provided adequate security to protect her after an assassination attempt that killed 139 of her supporters and police escort. REUTERS/Zainal Abd Halim

The government suspects Islamist militants were behind Friday’s attack on the former prime minister, who returned from eight years of self-imposed exile on Oct. 18.

But Bhutto said senior members of the Pakistani establishment were conspiring against her too.

“There are very powerful figures behind the assassination attempt on me,” Bhutto told a news conference.

She said she had no reason to believe President Pervez Musharraf, who came to power in a 1999 coup, was involved at any level.

Bhutto said she had asked Musharraf and his top advisers to assign police officials of her choice for protection, having been forewarned to expect attempts on her life.

“As of now, I haven’t got what I want in terms of my security,” Bhutto said, adding that she wanted protection for all political leaders, as moderates were being targeted.

At least one suicide bomber attacked Bhutto early on Friday as she rode in a truck through the streets of Karachi, greeting hundreds of thousands of supporters welcoming her home.

The United States and Britain have quietly encouraged Bhutto and Musharraf to forge an alliance after national elections due by January, analysts say.

Both are regarded as progressives who are friendly to the West and who can together fight al Qaeda-linked militants seeking to destabilise the nuclear-armed country, and help NATO forces battling the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

There is strong speculation that they will share power if the increasingly unpopular Musharraf keeps a promise to quit his post as army chief as part of a transition to civilian-led democracy.

Bhutto said it was premature to talk of any partnership.

INVESTIGATION

The Supreme Court had still to rule on whether Musharraf’s re-election by the current parliament on Oct. 6 should stand, she said.

Much would also depend on which parties emerged as the strongest in the next parliament, and whether parliament could curb the president’s power to dissolve the assemblies, she added.

Bhutto said she had not been informed of what progress the police had made in their investigation into the assassination attempt, though Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said no-one directly involved had yet been arrested.

“I expect the government to accede to my demands to hold a full inquiry and to have international support for that full inquiry,” she said, adding that otherwise it would look like a cover-up.

Bhutto, the Pakistani politician most capable of mobilising support on the streets, has delayed visiting Larkana, the town in Sindh province where her ancestral feudal home is and where her father is buried, but she still intends to go.

The authorities are considering banning political processions during the election campaign in the wake of the Karachi attack.

“Elections are a few months away, we want a peaceful, conducive atmosphere to conduct the elections,” Sherpao told reporters in Islamabad.

“We do not want to postpone the election and we do not want any sort of excuse for that.”

Additional reporting by Augustine Anthony, Asim Tanveer, Kamran Haider and Zeeshan Haider

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