Yesterday, at 6.16pm local time (13.16 GMT), Pakistan Peoples Party leader Benazir Bhutto died in Rawalpindi General Hospital after being shot in the neck and chest.
Bhutto’s assailant had reached her car as she was getting into it following an open air rally in the garrison town. After letting off two shots the gunman blew himself up, killing another 20 people.
Bhutto was carried unconscious to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery, but did not survive.
Her husband was at her side and reminded reporters that Bhutto had written to president Musharraf warning that officials in his government had ‘wanted to take her life’.
PPP officials were critical of the lack of security from the interior ministry and supporters took to the streets shouting ‘Dog, Musharraf, dog!’
The interior ministry announced that the country was on high alert.
Police were shot and wounded and houses set on fire.
Rival opposition party leader Nawaz Sharif came to Bhutto’s hospital bedside after surviving an attempt on his life earlier in the day, in which four of his supporters were killed and seven were injured.
Sharif’s brother, Shabbas Sharif, called for Pakistan President Musharraf to resign and revealed that the two opposition parties had been on the verge of uniting.
Calling on Musharraf to resign and for an independent inquiry into both attacks, Shabbas Sharif warned: ‘We are going to enter the most unstable time in our history.’
He added: ‘This contemptible act will take Pakistan into very, very troubled waters. I don’t think Musharraf is interested in holding elections.’
Asked should the state of emergency be reimposed, he said: ‘No, it will further aggravate the situation. It would lead to the dismemberment of Pakistan.
‘The answer is Musharraf must resign and a transparent inquiry must take place.
‘That can only be done by an interim government made up of Benazir’s party and other opposition parties.’
He was asked about the opposition parties uniting.
Recalling a conversation with his brother, Shabbas said: ‘Benazir rang up my brother three days ago late in the night, and this was her last conversation with my brother, and told him we need to discuss, and he said I agree with you, that’s what he told me three days ago.’
He went on to say that Bhutto was ‘a leader of tremendous quality’ who had sought ‘to bring democracy to Pakistan’.
Nawaz Sharif said in a statement: ‘I cannot believe it. It is a tragedy for the entire nation.’
Russia was the first international power to respond to the killing.
Urging ‘stability’, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, Russia’s most senior Asia diplomat, told Itar-Tass news agency: ‘An act of terror is a bad sign.
‘We hereby offer our condolences. This will for certain trigger a wave of terrorism.’
PPP UK leader Waheed Rasab said in London that the situation was ‘uncontrollable.’
Of Bhutto’s killers, he added: ‘These people are animals, they must be brought to justice.
‘I urge president Bush and Gordon Brown to bring these people to justice.
‘I hope Pakistan stays in one piece, this is a blow to the whole nation.’
A US State Department official said: ‘The attack shows that there are still those in Pakistan trying to undermine reconciliation and democratic development in Pakistan.’
UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement: ‘In targeting Benazir Bhutto, extremist groups have in their sights all those committed to democratic processes in Pakistan.
‘They cannot and must not succeed. This is a time for restraint but also unity.’
In France, a ministry statement said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner condemned ‘this odious act’.
The statement continued: ‘He pays homage to the memory of Mrs Bhutto, an eminent figure in Pakistani political life.
‘He reaffirms our country’s commitment to Pakistan’s stability and its democracy, which must be at the centre of attention of the entire international community.’