Pakistan poll: Many believe gov't behind Bhutto's death

Only 17% say they suspect al-Qaida or Taliban operatives were involved in assassination.

bhutto 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
bhutto 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Nearly half of Pakistanis surveyed suspect that government agencies or government-linked politicians killed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, according to an opinion poll highlighting popular mistrust in the country's US-allied president. Bhutto, a former prime minister, was killed in a Dec. 27 gun-and-suicide-bomb attack that the government of President Pervez Musharraf has blamed on Islamic extremists. Bhutto was a secular politician popular in the US and other Western countries for her opposition to hard-line Islam. Her political party and family members have accused the government of failing to provide her with sufficient security. Some have made vague allegations that elements within the government may even have been involved. Musharraf has denied any role, and there have been no specific claims of responsibility. In the results of an opinion poll asking who "killed" Bhutto, released over the weekend, 23 percent of respondents said they suspected government agencies in the slaying, while 25 percent believed government-allied politicians were behind it. Only 17 percent said they suspected al-Qaida or Taliban operatives. The poll by Gallup Pakistan, which is affiliated with the Gallup International polling group, questioned 1,300 men and women in face-to-face interviews across Pakistan soon after Bhutto's slaying. It had a margin of error of 5 percentage points. Gallup Pakistan said the survey was not commissioned by any third party outside the company. Gallup International has no relation with the US-based Gallup group. The two companies split in 1994. Information Minister Nisar Memon questioned the survey's findings. "I don't think this is representative of the thought process of the people of Pakistan, and neither does it reflect the realities," he said. "It is very clear that people know that it is the terrorists who are responsible." Musharraf seized power eight years ago in a military coup. His popularity has been low amid demands for more democracy. Feb. 18 parliamentary elections, delayed for six weeks amid rioting triggered by Bhutto's death, are seen as key to Pakistan's transition to democracy. Allegations of state involvement in Bhutto's death have been fueled by apparent government inconsistencies over precisely how she died. In separate Pakistan news, Islamic militants attacked a Pakistani military base near the Afghan border and sparked fighting that killed 40 to 50 insurgents, the army said Sunday.