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Home hurrah for ‘bold’ Benazir

Garhi Khuda Baksh, Oct. 27 (Reuters): Thousands of party faithful greeted former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto today as she visited her stronghold in southern Pakistan, days after an assassination bid that killed 139 people.

Chanting “Long Live Bhutto”, around 4,000 jubilant supporters of her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) cheered and clapped as Benazir arrived in a bullet-proof vehicle at her father’s vast mausoleum in their ancestral village of Garhi Khuda Baksh, near the town of Larkana in Sindh province. Standing through the sunroof, Benazir waved to crowds who were prevented from approaching the vehicle by security staff wielding AK-47s.

“Ours is a bold leader. If she is not scared, we are also not scared,” said Imdad Chandio as he jostled with police.

This was Benazir’s first foray outside Karachi since last week’s attack marred her return to Pakistan after eight years of self-exile.

A huge Benazir portrait hung from a pylon, and green, red and black PPP flags fluttered as her convoy whipped up a dust storm. Benazir draped a shawl inscribed with Islamic verses and sprinkled rose petals on her father’s grave. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first popularly elected Prime Minister, was toppled by the military in 1977 and later hanged.

She then sat by the tomb, reciting Quranic verses. “I feel very emotional. I wanted to visit the tomb of my father, the leader of the people, and offer prayers,” Benazir told reporters before she was whisked to her family home flanked by paramilitaries in jeeps mounted with machine guns.

“There is still the danger of an attack, but Allah can protect everyone and I am not scared of these people (militants),” she added, saying she now felt better about her security. “It was an attack on me, on the Pakistan People’s Party leadership and on democracy.”

Earlier, as she left the plane at Sukkur airport, Benazir kissed a copy of the Quran and a man wrapped a traditional Sindhi shawl around her shoulders. She boarded a Landcruiser and waved at supporters who showered her with rose petals as she began the drive to Larkana.

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