ISLAMABAD, Dec 27: The Pakistan People’s Party on Thursday announced that it would observe 40-day mourning for its chairperson Benazir Bhutto. It demanded an “independent and honest investigation” into the assassination.

“We demand of the government to hold a complete investigation and let the party workers, their family members and the nation know as to how and from where this happened,” PPP vice-chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim said, with tears in his eyes, at a news conference in Zardari House.

PPP leaders Raja Pervez Ashraf, Sherry Rehman, Senator Latif Khosa, Farzana Raja, Palwasha Behram, Murtaza Satti, Nayyar Bokhari, Nazir Dhoki, Wasif Syed and Rehman Malik were present. Mr Fahim, who was with Ms Bhutto in the vehicle when the blast took place outside Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi, said: “Had Mohtarma not appeared from the vehicle (to wave to the crowd from the sunroof), this tragedy would not have occurred,” he said.

He said he was sitting on the right side of Ms Bhutto and Naheed Khan was sitting on her left side. As the vehicle started moving, Ms Bhutto stood up and started waving to the crowd, he said, adding that all of a sudden they heard the sound of firing and saw Ms Bhutto coming down.

He said that first they thought that Ms Bhutto was perhaps coming back into the vehicle to save herself from the bullets, but all of a sudden a huge blast took place outside the vehicle.

Mr Fahim said that even after the blast they thought that Ms Bhutto had come back on her seat safely, but then they realised that it was not the case.

When asked to confirm whether Ms Bhutto was killed as a result of bullet shots or the blast, he said it would be cleared only from the post-mortem report.

When asked about the party’s future strategy regarding the participation in the Jan 8 election, Mr Fahim said: “We can’t comment on it. We are mourning. We are shattered.”

Mr Fahim said that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had just telephoned him to offer the condolence on behalf of her government and the people.

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