Bhutto seeks security for Pakistan election campaign amid suicide attacks
The Associated Press
By Munir Ahmad

ISLAMABAD Pakistan Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is asking for more security before taking her election campaign to the southwestern city of Quetta, after two suicide bombers killed 10 people there, her party said Friday.

Bhutto is expected to travel Saturday to Quetta, near the Afghan border, two days after the double attack at a military checkpoint.

The former prime minister has been closely guarded since she returned to Pakistan from exile on Oct. 18 to compete in next month’s parliamentary elections.

However, Bhutto’s security blanket failed to prevent a suicide attack that killed 149 people during her homecoming parade in the southern city of Karachi.

Investigators have yet to identify those responsible for either that attack or Thursday’s blasts in Quetta.

However, President Pervez Musharraf has blamed a pro-Taliban warlord from the mountainous border zone for a spate of suicide attacks in Pakistan this year.

On Friday, a spokesman for Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party said it wrote to the Interior Ministry on Thursday and would send another letter to the government on Friday seeking more protection for her in the wake of the Quetta blasts.

Jamming equipment provided by authorities to prevent the detonation of remote-controlled bombs near Bhutto’s car is faulty, and she needs four police cars instead of three to shield her vehicle, Farhatullah Babar said.

“There have been threats,” Babar told The Associated Press, but added: “She has said that she will not be deterred” from campaigning. “She must go ahead.”

He said Bhutto would hold a meeting with supporters in a closed compound, as planned.

Large public rallies are banned under a state of emergency imposed on Nov. 3 by Musharraf, which he is expected to lift this weekend.

The U.S.-backed leader said he acted to prevent political chaos and to give authorities a freer hand against Islamic militants. With the constitution suspended, Musharraf purged the judiciary, jailed thousands of opponents and silenced privately owned television news channels.

Critics accuse him of making a power grab before the old Supreme Court could rule on the legality of his continued rule.

Some of the restrictions have since been relaxed, but there are serious doubts about the fairness of the elections, which the West hopes will produce a stable government able to combat spreading Islamic extremism.

Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum said Thursday that, before reinstating the constitution, Musharraf would amend it to protect his decisions from court review.

An opinion poll released Thursday indicated that 60 percent of Pakistanis disapprove of the job Musharraf is doing.

The poll by the International Republican Institute a U.S. government-financed group that has Republican lawmakers and officials among its directors and senior staff said 31 percent of those surveyed felt Bhutto was best suited to lead the country. Some 25 percent backed another former premier, Nawaz Sharif, and 23 percent chose Musharraf.

The institute said 3,520 people were interviewed in their homes nationwide during the Nov. 19-28 poll, a sampling size that generally carries an error margin of three percentage points.

Associated Press writers Stephen Graham and Paul Alexander in Islamabad and Abdul Sattar in Quetta contributed to this report.

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