THE Bhutto family has dominated Pakistan's political horizon for nearly three decades, holding sway over the imagination of millions of loyalists and many detractors. The saga of the dynasty has been marked by spectacular triumphs and epic tragedies. The Bhuttos not only dominated the political scene for those years, they were elected to power four out of five times in general elections since 1970. Since the late 1960s, the political division in the country has been between the Bhuttos and their Pakistan People's Party on the one side and the rest of the political groups on the other. But then one after the other, the family members met with a series of tragedies, both political and emotional. They lost power in a military coup in 1977 and, two years later, Benazir Bhutto's father, and the party's founder, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was tried and hanged by the military. Then in the early 1980s, Benazir Bhutto's youngest brother, Shahnawaz, was found dead in mysterious circumstances in France, where he had been living in self-exile. And now the only surviving male member in the family, Murtaza, has been killed in a gun battle. Now even some of their staunchest supporters say the violent deaths in the family, and the divisions caused by family feuds, have considerably undermined the Bhuttos' strength and popularity. The animosity between Benazir and Murtaza Bhutto has done the most damage. There had always been differences between the two, but they took concrete form when Murtaza returned in early 1994, ending 16 years of self-imposed exile. Although Ms Bhutto was in power at that time, Murtaza was arrested on old charges relating to several cases of murder and terrorism. He faced these cases for several months and was later freed on bail. Feeling a political threat from her brother, Ms Bhutto decided to take control of the governing party from their mother, Nusrat Bhutto - giving Murtaza an excuse to split the party. He formed his own faction in the party and launched a bitter campaign against the Government, demanding its dismissal. He also accused his brother-in-law, Benazir Bhutto's husband Asif Zardari, of creating divisions in the family. Most analysts believe the future of the Bhutto family, and that of the governing party, depends on how Nusrat Bhutto takes this latest shock. Reports say she snubbed her daughter at the airport in Karachi and flew with Murtaza's body to Larkana. If she decides to part ways with her daughter - which her supporters say she may - it will be the biggest blow yet to both Benazir Bhutto and her three-year-old Government.