A former Lord Mayor of Bradford and friend of Benazir Bhutto today warned Pakistan was at "breaking point" following her assassination.

And community leaders in Bradford joined him in paying tribute to her and voiced their concerns for the troubled nation's future.

Miss Bhutto was shot in the head and chest by a suicide bomber, who then detonated the explosives he was carrying, as she left a political rally yesterday.

Councillor Ghazanfer Khaliq, whose brother Shoukat Raja is deputy general secretary of her Pakistan People's Party, said he now feared for the future of the country.

Coun Khaliq said: "This could be the breaking point for Pakistan. It's a black day for democracy in the country. And it's another tragedy for the Bhutto family.

"I knew my brother was going to the rally and called him on his mobile as soon as I heard. Thankfully, he's all right.

"I have met Benazir many times, most recently in the summer when she visited Bradford before her return to Pakistan."

At least 20 other people were thought to have been killed in the blast in Rawalpindi and many more were injured.

Miss Bhutto had returned to Pakistan in October after a decade in exile as she had faced corruption charges. She went back as a result of a power-sharing agreement with President Pervez Musharraf.

The day she returned to the country her cavalcade was hit by a suicide attack in Karachi leaving 130 people dead.

Community and religious leaders and MPs have paid their tributes to Miss Bhutto who made history in 1988 when she was elected as the first woman prime minister of a Muslim nation.

Sher Azam, a member of the management committee for Bradford Council for Mosques, said: "We are very sad at this tragic loss of life.

"The people of Bradford will be in shock at this incident because she is the leader of the PPP and, historically, Bradford has an old established link with that party. We are very much in mourning.

"I have a great respect for her and my colleagues have met her several times. I have respect for anyone who can devote life for the betterment of human beings in this way.

"Since she went back to Pakistan, they were looking at it being a full democracy. It's not a true democracy at the moment because Pakistan is still expelled from the Commonwealth.

"Lots of people were hoping she could have a prominent place in the future of Pakistan and could present the country's image in a more positive way.

"It's difficult to forecast what's going to happen now, but I still feel the elections should go ahead despite this tragic loss.

"This is sad, but I am hopeful that Pakistan can pull through this crisis."

Bradford West MP Marsha Singh, who met Miss Bhutto several times, said: "This is a tragedy of huge proportions for Pakistan, for Pakistanis across the world and for democracy.

"Words can't describe how I feel and I represent a lot of people in my constituency who originate from Pakistan.

"I met her personally in the Houses of Parliament and when she came to Bradford for rallies on several occasions.

"She was very popular in Bradford and her rallies were always bustling to the seams with people trying to get in.

"She always came across as a very determined person. For a woman to be prime minister of Pakistan is not easy, but she had huge courage and determination. She was a towering figure of a politician. She was very courageous to go back to Pakistan and attend rallies.

"My thoughts are with her children and with my constituents. I share their pain.

"Pakistan has been in a period of instability for some time. I am not quite sure how the elections can go ahead now."

Rashid Awan, president of the Pakistan Society of West Yorkshire, said: "I am shattered and very disheartened. The country has suffered a great loss.

"This has created a big hole - a vacuum - in the politics of Pakistan. That can never be filled. She was outspoken and very determined to defeat the terrorist acts in Pakistan and was very bold to make statements about eradicating those elements in Pakistan. I think that has created a lot of animosity.

"She had a narrow escape in Karachi and this is another attack, which is very sad.

"I am in total dismay at this and the country will be in mourning. It's a sad day for the whole of Pakistan because she could have been a leader of great calibre."

Keighley MP Ann Cryer said she was shocked and very saddened by her death.

She had last met Miss Bhutto in the House of Lords in the summer at a meeting organised by Labour peer Lord Nazir Ahmed prior to her return to Pakistan from exile.

Mrs Cryer said: "I can't think that President Musharraf will go ahead with election on January 8 after this tragedy.

"I think it bodes badly for stability in Pakistan and there will be many people in Bradford very upset by what has happened."

She believed Miss Bhutto had the right ideas although she had been anxious whether the twice former premier of Pakistan could stand up to the "wildmen" of north western Pakistan and to Musharraf.

Kris Hopkins, Ian Greenwood and Jeanette Sunderland, the leaders of the three main political parties of Bradford Council, said in a joint statement: "We are shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People's Party and the former Prime Minister of Pakistan.

"Miss Bhutto had a relationship with Bradford and visited on a number of occasions, and we know many people in the district will be affected by her death. Our condolences go out to her family and the families of the others who died. We will be flying the flag at half mast as a mark of respect."

Keighley Labour Councillor Khadim Hussain said he believed the Pakistan Government should have done more to protect Miss Bhutto.

He said: "The message was that there were people after her and the Government was aware of it. The finger of blame will fall in that direction - they did not protect her."

He said Miss Bhutto was a "voice of moderation" in the country and she was gaining popularity for her consistent criticism of the Government.

"This is a huge blow and very worrying. I fear there will be a huge backlash. She was a ray of hope," he added.