Tens of thousands mark anniversary of Bhutto's assassination

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis on Saturday assembled in the home town of late prime minister Benazir Bhutto on the eve of the first anniversary of her assassination, dpa reported.

Bhutto was killed along with three dozen other people in a suicide gun-and-bomb attack soon after she concluded an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

According to local police officials, more than 150,000 people had streamed in the small town of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in the southern province of Sindh where Bhutto was buried in a family tomb.

Many came in motor caravans and special trains run by the government, while some walked hundreds of kilometres to pay tribute their slain leader.

"She is our sister, she is our mother and she is our leader. We are going to remember her till our death," said Ishfaq Hussain, a labourer who had travelled from the central city of Multan to attend the anniversary.

Bhutto's tragic death led to the victory of her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in February 18 elections.

Months later, her widower Asif Ali Zardari replaced former president Pervez Musharraf.

Thousands of military and paramilitary troops were deployed around the mausoleum.

Later in the day, the main ceremony, which was to be addressed by Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was cancelled due to security concerns.

In a message released to press, Zardari said Bhutto fought a battle that "was for the hearts and minds of a generation against fanaticism and extremism."

"The tyrants and the killers have killed her but they shall never be able to kill her ideas that drove and inspired a generation to lofty aims."

A more low-key ceremony continued at the site of Bhutto's assassination in Rawalpindi, where hundreds of people laid flowers and paid tribute to the Bhutto, who was dubbed the "Daughter of the East."

The attack was blamed on Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander based in Pakistan's ungoverned north-western tribal region near the Afghan border. He denies the allegations.

Bhutto's family has also suspected some "rogue elements" in country's intelligence agencies to be behind the murder.

The present PPP-led government has called for a UN-led inquiry into the death.

The UN has accepted the request, but a commission to conduct the probe has yet to be formed.

The world body's deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Friday that the UN secretariat "has been in consultations with the government of Pakistan to determine the nature of the commission, the scope of its mandate and the modalities for its establishment."

"The secretary general (Ban Ki-moon) is hopeful that, with the progression of the discussions, the commission could be established in the near future," he said.

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