Pakistan's former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. As Alex Villarreal reports, Bhutto will be remembered for her unwavering devotion to democracy and the people of Pakistan.
Police and aides say Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto died Thursday after being shot during a suicide attack at an election rally near the capital, Islamabad.
The 54-year-old leader of the Pakistani People's Party had just addressed a gathering in a park in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, when a suicide bomber fired gunshots at Bhutto before blowing himself up.
Benazir Bhutto was a Pakistani political icon -- the first female prime minister of a Muslim country.
She served two terms, from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996. Her tenure was marred by corruption charges, and she later left Pakistan under a cloud of legal challenges. But in recent years, Ms. Bhutto was heralded by western governments as a pro-democracy reformer.
After eight years in exile, she was allowed to return to Pakistan in October. In an emotional homecoming she said, "I feel very very emotional coming back to my country. I dreamt of this day for so many months and years. I counted the hours, I counted the minutes and the seconds, just to see this land, to see the grass, to see the sky. I feel so emotionally overwhelmed."
Bhutto's homecoming rally was marred by a suicide attack that killed more than 130 people -- one of the worst such attacks in Pakistan's history. The bombing also strained relations between her and President Pervez Musharraf.
For months, she held talks with President Musharraf for a possible power-sharing deal, strongly favored by the United States. But talks had stalled and Ms. Bhutto was campaigning to run in general elections set for January eighth. She was determined to see democracy in Pakistan.
"The people that you see outside are the real image of Pakistan. These are the decent hard working middle classes and working classes of Pakistan, who want to be empowered so they can build a moderate modern nation where everybody has equality. This is the real Pakistan and if we get democracy this is the face of Pakistan the world will see. Not the face of the extremists who have thrived under the dictatorships," Bhutto said.
Despite warnings from Pakistani security officials about threats to her safety, she continued to hold public rallies and held fast to her belief in the Pakistani people. She said, "I feel so proud of the people of Pakistan, I feel so very proud of them. It hurts us when people say, the terrorists who come, whether they are bombing tubes in London, or whetehr plotting plots in Germany or doing things in ohter countries, and have their trail leading back (to Pakistan). That is not the real image of Pakistan"
The Pakistan's People's Party, or PPP, was founded by her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1960s. The PPP has been one of the few political parties in Pakistan that drew support from broad constituencies across the country.