KARACHI (AFP)- Pakistan probed Saturday a list of possible suspects given by former premier Benazir Bhutto after a suicide assassination bid that killed 139 people and bloodied her return from exile.
Bhutto said she had sent President Pervez Musharraf the names of three people she accused of involvement in Thursday’s blast, which ripped through a crowd of hundreds of thousands who welcomed her back to Karachi.
“I have shared the names with General Musharraf and one of the people is someone that they are (already) watching,” Bhutto told the BBC in an interview, but refused to give their names.
The 54-year-old said she did not believe that the “state or government” were involved in the attack, but sources in her Pakistan People’s Party said the list included senior army officials, without elaborating.
Bhutto has said that she received a warning prior to her return from Dubai about members of Al-Qaeda, Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and a Karachi-based militant group who may plan to attack her.
She has also accused Islamist supporters of late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq of being behind the blasts, the worst suicide bombing in Pakistan’s history.
He overthrew Bhutto’s father, prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in 1977 and had him hanged two years later.
The United States — which has backed a proposed power-sharing deal between key anti-terror ally Musharraf and the Oxford and Harvard-educated Bhutto — has offered its help in the investigation.
Police said they were pushing forward with the probe but had made no arrests. Musharraf pledged to bring the culprits to justice in a telephone call to Bhutto on Friday.
“Investigations are progressing in the right direction but once again we will avoid pinpointing anyone or blaming it on a certain set of militants,” Karachi police chief Azhar Farooqi told AFP.
“There has been a minor piece of evidence found from the site today but we will not be disclosing it. Police have secured the site of the blast and taken samples.”
Police said one more person died overnight, taking the number killed to 139.
As the death toll rose, a bomb exploded in a market in troubled southwest Baluchistan province Saturday killing seven people in the latest violence to hit the country.
Bhutto has pledged to stay in Pakistan to combat militancy and fight general elections in January, seen as a key step to returning the Islamic republic of some 160 million people to civilian rule.
But the attack on her motorcade has cast doubt over her previous plans to tour the country to whip up support ahead of the polls.
Her party said she would soon visit the tomb of her father in her family’s ancestral village of Larkana, deep in southern Sindh province.
“Her next stop will be Larkana to pay homage to her shaheed (martyr) father. That will come in a day or so,” senior party leader Taj Haider told AFP.
“She is meeting party officials and consulting them. The programmes are being re-adjusted because of the security threat but she has said the attack will not deter her and the party from going ahead with plans.”
The explosions — a grenade followed by a suicide blast — came hours after Bhutto had flown home, sobbing as she set foot on Pakistani soil for the first time since 1999 after shrugging off warnings of militant attacks.
Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari has blamed one of the country’s three powerful intelligence agencies.
Bhutto had returned from eight years in self-imposed exile after Musharraf dropped corruption charges against her in the hope her popularity could shore up his grip on power.
The charges arose from her two previous terms in power between 1988 and 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996.
She had mostly worked out a power-sharing deal with him, but his re-election as president earlier this month is now being challenged in the courts, as is the graft amnesty.
World leaders, from Washington and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan’s bitter regional rival India, have condemned the blasts.