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Pakistan Marks Anniversary of Bhutto Killing


More than 150,000 Pakistanis gathered in southern Pakistan on Saturday to mark the anniversary of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Ms. Bhutto's husband, President Asif Ali Zardari, spoke out against vengeance.

A large crowd flocked to the mausoleum of Benazir Bhutto in Sindh province to mourn on the first anniversary of her assassination. Some walked hundred of kilometers to offer flowers and kiss her grave.

Ms. Bhutto was killed in a shooting and suicide bomb attack on December 27th, 2007, as she was leaving a rally in the town of Rawalpindi.

One year later, President Zardari said tyrants may have killed his wife, but they will never kill her goal of making democratic reforms in Pakistan. And he urged his fellow Pakistanis to avoid seeking vengeance for her assassination. "We have seen these losses; we have lost our people; we have lost our own. In spite of them, and in spite of that, we do not talk of war; we do not talk about vengeance; we do talk about the fact that we shall avenge ourselves in history; we talk about the fact that we shall change," he said.

Mr. Zardari acknowledged the Pakistani government's struggles with militant groups, but said violence is not the answer. "We have issues; yes, we have issues. We have non-state actors; yes, we have non-state actors. Yes, they are forcing their agenda; yes, they are forcing an agenda on us. But, please do not fall victim, because you will be the victim, we will be the victim, the region will be the victim," he said.

But as Mr. Zardari's government faces a crisis triggered by the November attacks in Mumbai, India, which New Delhi blames on Pakistani militants, Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar has issued a warning to India. He said he resolves at the tomb of Benazir Bhutto that "if India tries to fight," Pakistan "will give a befitted response."

One year after the assassination, Pakistan is dealing with tensions with India, more than 50 suicide attacks killing civilians, an economic crisis for the government, high food prices and chronic power shortages.

Stephen Cohen at the Brookings Institution in Washington says that, despite all that, Mr. Zardari is trying to continue Ms. Bhutto's efforts to make Pakistan a more moderate and modern nation. "Stabilization at home, economic growth, normalization with India, close relations with the United States, but not being subordinate to the United States," he said.

At Washington's Mideast Institute, Marvin Weinbaum says Mr. Zardari is not as much of a visionary or a natural leader as his wife. "Pakistan very much is crying out here for someone who provides statesmanship for the country, who will do more than simply put together coalitions, someone who will provide inspiration and a way forward for Pakistan," he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday he hoped a U.N. commission would be established soon to investigate Ms. Bhutto's killing. The late prime minister's Pakistan People's Party alleged that forces linked to then-President Pervez Musharraf were involved. Musharraf's government blamed Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani militant commander with reported links to al-Qaida. Mehsud has denied involvement.

The government of Pakistan has declared December 27 a national holiday to honor Mr. Bhutto, the first woman to lead an Islamic nation.

On Saturday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani talked about what his predecessor meant to Pakistan. "She was the hope of the people of this country, she was the hope for the region, she was hope for the peace, prosperity and progress of the whole world and she fought for human rights. She struggled for the rights of the people," he said.