(Reuters) - Pakistan has accused al Qaeda of killing opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, whose assassination on Thursday plunged the nuclear-armed country into crisis and triggered bloody protests.
Here are some facts on Bhutto:
* Benazir Bhutto was born on June 21, 1953, into a wealthy landowning family. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and was president and later prime minister of Pakistan from 1971 to 1977.
* After gaining degrees in politics at Harvard and Oxford universities, she returned to Pakistan in 1977, just before the military seized power from her father. She inherited the leadership of the PPP after her father’s execution in 1979 under military ruler General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.
* First voted in as prime minister in 1988, Bhutto was sacked by the president on corruption charges in 1990. She took power again in 1993 after her successor, Nawaz Sharif, was forced to resign after a row with the president. Bhutto was no more successful in her second spell as prime minister, and Sharif was back in power by 1996.
* In 1999, both Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, were sentenced to five years in jail and fined $8.6 million on charges of taking kickbacks from a Swiss company hired to fight customs fraud. A higher court later overturned the conviction as biased. Bhutto, who had made her husband investment minister during her period in office from 1993 to 1996, was abroad at the time of her conviction and chose not to return to Pakistan.
— Geneva lawyers for Bhutto said last month they had lodged an appeal in a Swiss inquiry into alleged money laundering by Bhutto and her husband. The motion filed with Geneva’s criminal appeals court could lead to hearings in the long-running case.
* In 2006 she joined an Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy with her arch-rival Sharif, but the two disagreed over strategy for dealing with military President Pervez Musharraf. Bhutto decided it was better to negotiate with Musharraf, while Sharif refused to have any dealings with the general.
* Bhutto returned home in October 2007 after Musharraf, with whom she had been negotiating over a transition to civilian-led democracy, granted her protection from prosecution in old corruption cases.
* On her return, as she was driving through Karachi, a suicide bomber struck, killing 139 supporters and members of her security team.
* On December 26, Bhutto vowed to fight for workers’ rights as she took her campaign for January general elections to an industrial belt near the capital.
* Bhutto was buried in the family mausoleum at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, a village in the southern province of Sindh.
Writing by David Cutler and Gill Murdoch, London Editorial Reference Unit