PESHAWAR, Dec 27: The Awami National Party has decided to observe three days of mourning for Benazir Bhutto.
“For the first time in my life, I can’t find words to express my grief. I am hurt. I am really hurt,” ANP leader Asfandyar Wali Khan told Dawn by phone from Walibagh in Charsadda.
Mr Khan, who was addressing an election rally in his hometown, stopped his speech and told his party supporters to suspend all election activities for three days. “There will be three days of mourning and all election activities have been stopped,” he said.
“This is not a trivial event. It will have far-reaching consequences,” he said.
Asked if elections were possible in such circumstances, he said that the situation was very fluid and things would become clear in a couple of days.
CHAUDHRY SHUJAAT: Pakistan Muslim League-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain condemned the assassination of Ms Bhutto and termed it a national tragedy.
He said in a statement issued in Lahore that all Pakistanis shared the grief with the Bhutto family and the PML-Q strongly condemned the act of terrorism.
He said his party considered terrorism as enemy of humanity, since it neither had a religion nor any political party.
He said Ms Bhutto had made a major contribution to Pakistan’s politics, and despite being on different side of the political divide, “we always respected her courage and commitment” to her political views.
The PML chief said: “We express deepest condolences to her husband Mr Asif Ali Zardari and their children”.
“At this moment I request and appeal to all political leaders to promote harmony and patience, instead of taking any political advantage from this sad incident,” he said.
PML-Q Punjab president Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi also condemned Ms Bhutto’s assassination and called for more stringent measures to check suicide and terrorist attacks.
In a condolence message to the bereaved family, he termed the incident a national tragedy. He said his party had suspended all election-related activities for the time being.
ALTAF HUSSAIN: Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain termed the killing of Ms Bhutto the murder of democracy and liberalism.
In a statement issued from the London Secretariat of MQM, Mr Hussain expressed sorrow and said that the assassination was a colossal loss to Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto would be known as a martyr for the cause of democracy, he added. He described her death as a monumental tragedy that would be condemned by all liberal-minded people.
He further said that he wanted to bring this on record that Benazir’s murder was the third assassination of a prime minister belonging to the Sindh province. Liaquat Ali Khan was the first to be shot dead in Rawalpindi, then Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was sent to the gallows there and today Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had been martyred just like her father, the MQM chief maintained.
He said: “I am personally deeply in pain and saddened by this tragedy, and offer my heartfelt condolences to her husband Asif Ali Zardari, her children, People’s Party leaders and workers”.
He said that the Rawalpindi blast was an act to harm the country and create a sense of isolation among the people of Sindh.
“The gap that has been created by Benazir’s death cannot be filled,” he added.
He called upon President Pervez Musharraf and caretaker Prime Minister Mohammadmian Soomro to investigate and reveal the conspiracy behind the killing and give exemplary punishments to the culprits and conspirators.
He said that the solidarity of Pakistan would be threatened if justice was not seen to be done. He also declared three-day mourning by MQM workers.
SHERPAO: PPP (Sherpao) leader Aftab Khan Sherpao, who himself has survived two suicide bombings, told Dawn from Islamabad that Ms Bhutto’s death would lead to further violence.
“This is disastrous. What is left here?” he said with grief in his voice. “I was anticipating this that (the number of) suicide bombings would increase and there will be an intensification in the attacks,” he said.
Mr Sherpao, who was associated for 22 years with Ms Bhutto before parting ways with her to form his own faction, paid rich tributes to the assassinated leader.
“She was a brave lady and she was killed at the place where her father was assassinated,” he said.
Asked if elections would be possible in such circumstances, the former two-time chief minister of the NWFP said, “I don’t think so. This (Ms Bhutto’s death) will lead to more violence and beneficiaries of destabilisation would join in.”
He regretted that there had been no concerted effort to eliminate the sources of suicide bombings.
AJK PRESIDENT, PM: Azad Jammu & Kashmir President Raja Zulqarnain Khan and Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan condemned the assassination, terming it a great loss for Pakistan and its people.
Expressing sympathies with the families of all those who lost their lives in the tragedy, the AJK prime minister announced a three-day mourning in the state.
He also called upon the people of Pakistan to remain peaceful so that enemies of the country could not take advantage of the situation.
APP adds: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman expressed his heartfelt grief and sorrow over the death of Ms Bhutto.
According to a JUI press release issued in Lahore, Maulana Fazl said it was a great tragedy which would have impact on the politics of the country for a long time to come.
He said despite ideological differences with the People’s Party “we are equally grieved over the incident and share grief and sorrow of the PPP leaders and workers”.
He regretted that peaceful political atmosphere was being vitiated and urged all the political forces to sit together and ponder over the prevailing situation and ways to improve it.
The Maulana also condemned the firing on a PML-N rally and said it was a conspiracy to spoil the political atmosphere.
Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Maulana Ameer Hussain Gillani, Maulana Muhammad Amjad Khan, Qari Sher Afzal Khan also condemned Banazir’s killing and declared it a worst incident in the history of the country.
They said that it was a conspiracy against the democratic process.