Bhutto’s Brother Killed in Gunbattle With Police
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s estranged brother was shot and killed Friday in a gunbattle with police outside his Karachi home, hospital officials said.
Witnesses said at least six other people also were killed and several wounded in the confrontation. Police said two officers were injured.
Murtaza Bhutto, 42, was rushed to Mideast Hospital with six gunshot wounds to his neck and abdomen, and died on the operating table, hospital officials said.
A distraught Ms. Bhutto rushed to Karachi from Islamabad, said Bashir Riaz, a family friend. ``As you can imagine, she is very upset.″
The two siblings had been estranged since Murtaza Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 1993 after 16 years of exile in Syria.
Ms. Bhutto’s family, a wealthy land-owning clan in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, has been repeatedly struck by tragedy over the past two decades.
Her father, who spent two years in jail after being overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1977, was hung in the middle of the night without any family by his side.
Ms. Bhutto and her mother spent four years in jail during martial law, were tortured and later lived in exile in England.
In 1986, her younger brother, Shahnawaz Bhutto, died mysteriously in France.
There were conflicting reports about how Friday’s shooting began.
Witnesses said the gunbattle broke out outside Murtaza Bhutto’s home in a posh Karachi neighborhood after a rally he had called to demand his sister’s resignation.
They said dozens of Murtaza Bhutto’s supporters attacked the Karachi police chief’s house, which is located across the street. The police chief’s guards responded by opening fire, they said.
But police officials said the incident started when Murtaza Bhutto’s supporters fired on police, who had stopped their vehicles to search for several suspects wanted on terrorism and murder charges.
After the gunbattle, a curfew was imposed on the area, where some of Pakistan’s wealthiest residents and many diplomats live. Hundreds of paramilitary officers and police were deployed in the neighborhood.
Hundreds of Murtaza Bhutto’s supporters gathered outside the hospital Friday night when his young Palestinian wife, Ghanva, announced his death.
``How could this happen?″ she sobbed.
There had been considerable tension between police and Murtaza Bhutto’s supporters leading up to the shootout, following the arrest of one of his key aides, Mohammed Ali Sunara.
Sunara was wanted on several charges ranging from terrorist acts to murder.
In 1993, Murtaza Bhutto returned to Pakistan from Syria and was promptly arrested on a charge of air piracy in connection with the hijacking of a Pakistan International Airlines plane in 1981. He had proclaimed his innocence and accused his sister of harassing him.
After his return, Murtaza Bhutto established the Pakistan People’s Party, a rival to his sister’s party, although he had been unable to garner much support.
He ran against his sister in the 1993 elections as an independent candidate.
Ms. Bhutto met with her brother in July _ their first face-to-face encounter since 1990. At the time, Murtaza Bhutto said: ``There are no disputes among us in the family. It’s not something personal, but we have political differences.″