Bhutto gets warm welcome in ancestral town


Sukkur (Pakistan) : Thousands of supporters greeted former premier Benazir Bhutto as she arrived Saturday at Sukkur in southern Pakistan to visit her ancestral home nine days after surviving a suicide attack in Karachi.

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The crowd chanted, “Long live Benazir,” as Bhutto came out of Sukkur airport and waved at them from her white jeep that was covered with rose petals.

Immediately afterwards, she was escorted in a fast-moving convoy of armoured vehicles to her father’s tomb in Garhi Khuda Baksh, a village in Larkana district, some 42 km from Sukkur.

Jubilant people were lined up on both sides of roads waving the red, black and green flags of her Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

“I am very pleased that my sister is coming back to lead our party,” said Madhu Ram, 45, who had come from a nearby village to welcome Bhutto.

It was Bhutto’s first trip to the ancestral home since 1999 when she fled the country to avoid persecution over corruption charges.

“It’s been a long time since I have been here and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to put my feet on my homeland once again to see the love of my people,” Bhutto told journalists on board.

“This has strengthened me to do what I can to save Pakistan by saving democracy,” she added.

Security was very tight at the airport, which was guarded by paramilitary troops.

“We have deployed more than 1,500 policemen in Larkana and Garhi Khuda Baksh to provide maximum security to her,” police chief Mazhar Ali Sheikh told DPA.

Two suicide bombs ripped through a procession of tens of thousands of people which the two-time ex-premier was leading in Karachi after her arrival from Dubai to end eight years in exile.

The blame for the attack has been placed on Islamic militants, who are believed to be angry over her recently brokered power-sharing deal with President General Pervez Musharraf.