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Pakistan's Sharif condemns Bhutto killing, questions whether elections can be held

Pakistan's Sharif condemns Bhutto killing, questions whether elections can be held

Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, a longtime rival of Benazir Bhutto, condemned her assassination Thursday and questioned whether the country's upcoming election can go ahead without her. But he rebutted suggestions that he could gain political capital from her demise.
As word of her death spread throughout a shaken and distraught Pakistan, Sharif rushed to the Rawalpindi hospital where she died and sat silently next to her body.
"Benazir Bhutto was also my sister, and I will be with you to take the revenge for her death," he said afterward, his eyes at times welling up with tears. "Don't feel alone. I am with you. We will take the revenge on the rulers."
Sharif and Bhutto, both two-time former prime ministers, were both campaigning for Jan. 8 parliamentary elections. Bhutto was hopeful of winning a third term but election authorities have disqualified Sharif from contesting a seat because of court convictions.
Yet Bhutto's death will leave Sharif, who was ousted in President Pervez Musharraf's 1999 coup, as the most prominent leader of a secular political party in Pakistan.
Sharif, 57, was quick to insist that neither he nor anyone else would benefit from Bhutto's death.
"I think nobody stands to gain and nobody should be looking for any gains," he told the British Broadcasting Corp. "It's a very serious situation for the country today."
As for the elections, Sharif said the country's politicians would have to carefully consider whether to press on with the vote.
"I don't know what will happen with the elections," he said. "I think perhaps none of us is inclined to take up the elections. We'll have to sit down and take a very serious look the current situation."
Thursday's suicide attack that killed Bhutto also left at least 20 other people dead. Her supporters quickly erupted in anger and grief, attacking police and rioting in several cities. At the hospital where she died, some smashed glass and wailed, chanting slogans against Musharraf.
The gathering unrest stoked fears of mass protests and violence across the nuclear-armed nation, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.
For Sharif, the path forward was far from clear.
"I think we all have to seriously think about how to move ahead because such incidents are something absolutely unusual or unheard of," he told CNN. "We have never been confronted with this kind of a situation in our public life in Pakistan."
Pakistan, however, has seen its share of political violence, and Islamic militants have repeatedly targeted top figures in Musharraf's government. Last weekend, a suicide bomber targeted former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao inside a mosque, killing 56 other people.
Sharif, a law graduate and the son of a leading industrialist who is considered religiously conservative, rose to prominence under Gen. Zia ul-Haq's military regime in the 1980s, becoming the chief minister of the eastern province of Punjab.
He then went on to lead the Pakistan Muslim League and became Bhutto's chief rival in the struggle for power during a turbulent decade of civilian rule.
Sharif served twice as prime minister before being ousted in 1999 by then-army chief Musharraf. Sharif then went into exile, living for most of the time in Saudi Arabia, before returning last month to challenge Musharraf once more.


Updated : 2021-06-23 08:11 GMT+08:00