Pakistan's charismatic leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today as gunmen opened fire at her vehicle just before a suicide attack at an election rally addressed by her in Rawalpindi.
The attack killed more than 20 people and left several others injured.
Following Bhutto's death, a high alert has been sounded in Pakistan. President Musharraf has convened an emergency meeting of top advisors. Shops and petrol pumps have closed in many cities fearing violence.
According to preliminary reports, Benazir finished the rally at 5:30 pm and was on her way back to Ralwal. She got into the car and was soon after attacked by two people with AK 47s. A suicide bomber blew himself up next to car.
Nawaz Sharif described Benazir Bhutto's assassination as the most tragic incident in the history of Pakistan.
''I myself feel threatened,'' says Sharif, whose party temporarily suspended the electioneering in the wake of the assassination.
''Are things in control now? Had things been in control, would this have happened?'' he said, adding that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf would have to give answers.
''I also feel unprotected and the lady must also have been feeling very unprotected,'' Sharif said.
Criticising Musharraf, he said, ''If Musharraf can spend crores on his own security, could he not spend some amount on the security of Bhutto.''
Fifty-four-year-old Benazir was rushed to Rawalpindi general hospital, where she was pronounced dead nearly 40 minutes later.
''We are traumatised. People all over are crying. Everyone is saying that this Army has killed Benazir. There is going to be more bloodshed. Will the world now finally wake up? said a distraught Asma Jehangir, Chairperson, Pak Human Rights Commission.
''It is very tragic. It has shocked every Pakistani,'' said Ayaz Amir, columnist.
Prof. Bhim Singh, Chairman of the National Panthers Party and Member of National Integration Council (NIC) while condemning the brutal assassination of Benazir Bhutto Pakistan's foremost political leader and the former Prime Minister termed it as most cowardice act of the terrorists and total failure of Pakistan government.
Bhutto is survived by her husband Asif Ali Zardari and three children. Before she returned to Pakistan in October, Benazir Bhutto told that she was not afraid of the threats.
In the first reactions coming in from New Delhi, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said, ''We are shocked and saddened by this. Benazir was a promising leader with her own stature in Pakistan. It has happened at a time when the people of Pakistan were looking up to her. We offer our condolences to her bereaved family members and friends.''
The funeral is likely to be held on Friday in Bhutto's hometown Larkana.
National and provincial assembly elections in Pakistan are due on January 8.
In October some 130 people were killed in an attack on Bhutto's cavalcade when she returned to the country.
It was one of the worst incidents of violence in a year of deteriorating security in Pakistan.