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Pakistan to mark five years since Benazir Bhutto murder

APP09-26LarkanaLARKANA: Pakistan marks the fifth anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on Thursday, with her son expected to launch his political career with a speech in the family's ancestral home town.


Benazir, twice elected prime minister, was killed in a gun and suicide attack after an election rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. No one has ever been convicted of her murder.


Thousands are expected to gather at the family mausoleum at Larkana in the southern province of Sindh and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Benazir and of President Asif Ali Zardari, is to make his first major public speech.


With a general election due in the spring, analysts say the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is eager to introduce a third generation of the dynasty to the public.


"It appears to be the formal launching of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari into politics," political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.


"Bilawal has symbolic value in the Bhutto family and Zardari would like this link to be used as symbolism in the election."


Though the 24-year-old Bilawal will be too young to stand if elections go ahead as expected in the spring -- the lower age limit is 25 -- Askari said he could provide a fresh new figurehead for the PPP campaign.


Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said the country should "shun prejudices and maintain unity" to pay homage to Benazir.


"Let us resolve to defeat the forces of extremism and terrorism and work for the progress and prosperity of the country," he said in a statement.


Bilawal, co-chairman of the PPP with his father, in May accused former President Pervez Musharraf of "murdering" his mother by deliberately sabotaging her security.


A UN report in 2010 also said the murder could have been prevented and accused Musharraf's government of failing to protect Bhutto properly.


Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012