Bhutto's Son Steps Up To Political Plate In Pakistan On Assassination Anniversary
Thousands gather to hear Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari announce plans
From Nasir Habib CNN
December 27, 2012
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The son of the late Benazir Bhutto is expected to launch his political career Thursday in a speech that will mark the fifth anniversary of the former Pakistan prime minister's assassination.
Thousands gathered Thursday near the Bhutto family home in Sindh province, where Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was expected to outline his political platform in a televised speech. Since his mother's death, Bhutto-Zardari, 24, has served as chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, the political party founded in 1974 by the late prime minister's father.
The anticipated announcement comes as a Pakistan special prosecutor accused the court of dragging out the case against five men accused in connection with the December 27, 2007, killing of Bhutto.
“Several times, the court has rejected our request” for hearings in the case, Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, a special prosecutor with the Federal Investigation Agency, told CNN on Wednesday.
The five men, who were indicted by an anti-terror court, are accused of having links to Beitullah Mehsud, the late leader of the Pakistan Taliban believed to be the mastermind behind the attack on Bhutto.
The men are due back in court on January 5, Ali said.
Bhutto was killed shortly after returning to Pakistan from a self-imposed, eight-year exile to run in the country's general elections in 2008.
Bhutto, the first woman elected prime minister in a Muslim nation, led Pakistan twice, from 1988 to 1990 and then again from 1993 to 1996. Both times she served as prime minister, she was dismissed from office amid allegations of corruption.
Bhutto-Zardari's father is Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who has been under fire over allegations of corruption.
Security was extremely tight ahead of the speech by Bhutto-Zardari, who is widely seen as stepping to the political forefront with the announcement.
The move comes just a little more than a week after the special prosecutor sent a second letter to Interpol asking for the arrest of former President Pervez Musharraf, who has been accused of failing to protect Bhutto despite threats to her life.
Musharraf has been in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai after leaving Pakistan in 2008. In August 2012, Pakistani authorities confiscated his property and froze his bank account. The former military ruler has denied having anything to do with Bhutto's killing.
Bhutto survived an assassination attempt in October 2007 in Karachi during her homecoming that killed 139 people. In December, she was killed in a gun-suicide bomb attack as she was wrapping up a campaign rally in Rawalpindi ahead of parliamentary elections.
Mehsud, the alleged architect of the attack, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August 2009 in Pakistan's volatile Waziristan province, according to authorities. He denied being behind the attack on Bhutto, according to statements released by his spokesman shortly after the former prime minister's killing.
But authorities said Mehsud chose a teenager from his own tribe to act as the as the suicide bomber in the attack on Bhutto.
The suicide bomber was taken to Rawalpindi by three member of the Taliban, who handed him over to two others who provided him temporary housing and gave him information on when and where Bhutto could be targeted, according to Ali, the special prosecutor.
CNN's Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.