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India on alert as leaders grieve Bhutto killing

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Last Updated: December 28, 2007, 09:27 IST

India on alert as leaders grieve Bhutto killing

Security forces were placed on high alert in India following Bhutto's killing.

New Delhi: Security forces were placed on high alert in India following the assassination of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto as the country recoiled in shock and horror at the "reminder of common dangers of terrorism" facing the region.

All forces posted along India's borders were put on high alert and state governments were sent a communiqué asking them to maintain extra vigil in the wake of Bhutto's assassination at Rawalpindi Thursday evening, home ministry officials said.

Reacting with horror, New Delhi also underlined that Bhutto's death in a suicide attack at a rally in Rawalpindi was a blow to the process of democracy and reconciliation in the neighbouring country and expressed solidarity with the people of Pakistan in this hour of crisis.

Although official reactions coming from top leaders cutting across the political spectrum did not say it in so many words, India is concerned about the spillover effects of chaos and anarchy following Bhutto's assassination in the neighbouring country.

The border forces in Punjab along the 553-km-long fenced international border with Pakistan were asked to keep an extra vigil amid reports of violence in some cities in that country.

"We alert our frontline formations whenever there is a major disturbance in the neighbouring country," Border Security Force (BSF) Special Director General of Police (DGP) G.S. Gill said.
The alert, he said, would mean more security personnel being stationed round-the-clock at the fenced border. Shoot at sight orders remain in force at the border at all times.

The directives to alert security forces in India were issued even as President Pratibha Patil said Bhutto's killing was a tragedy for the entire subcontinent. "This tragedy underscores the menace that terrorism poses to us and to the stability of our societies."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted that the attack was "a reminder of common dangers" in the region, while expressing deep shock at Bhutto's assassination.

"The manner of her going is a reminder of the common dangers that our region faces from cowardly acts of terrorism and of the need to eradicate this dangerous threat," Manmohan Singh said.

Similar sentiments were expressed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who echoed Manmohan Singh in calling Bhutto "a brave and outstanding woman leader of the sub-continent".
"I express my utter shock and horror at the assassination of Benazir Bhutto," said Mukherjee. "That she should fall to a barbarous terrorist attack is particularly tragic, and should strengthen our resolve to fight this scourge."

Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, also condemned the killing and called for extra vigil by security forces at the country's borders.

"I am shocked to hear this sad news. She was a brave lady who worked hard for her country. I hope Pakistan and the people there are able to bear the shock," added Abdullah, the patron of the state's National Conference party.

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said Benazir was fighting a hard battle to re-establish democracy in her country. "It has become a big challenge for democracy and peace loving society and we have to fight it out together."

Vajpayee's colleague in Bharatiya Janata Party and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani said the assassination also showed how well terror forces were entrenched in Pakistan.

"The Talibanisation of Pakistan that is taking place is a threat to India also," Advani said, soon after speaking to Manmohan Singh, who is on a two-day visit to Goa.

Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi, who herself lost her husband and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in a terrorist suicide attack, said the "reprehensible act" deserved to be strongly condemned by all those who believe in freedom of expression and democratic values.

"My heart goes out to her (Bhutto's) loving children and family, her friends, and followers in their moment of grief," Gandhi said in a message.

"On behalf of the Indian National Congress and my own behalf I convey my deep-felt condolences to her family and the people of Pakistan and wish them all strength and fortitude to bear this irreparable loss."

first published:December 28, 2007, 09:27 IST
last updated:December 28, 2007, 09:27 IST