Bhutto Laid to Rest After Night of Turmoil, Protest

Hundreds of thousands of mourners thronged Benazir Bhutto's funeral procession on Friday, accompanying the opposition leader's plain wood coffin to its final resting place at the family mausoleum. Furious supporters rampaged through several cities to protest her assassination less than two weeks before a crucial election.

"Benazir is alive, Bhutto is alive," some mourners cried out as they gathered at her ancestral home, ahead of the procession. Others drove to the vast marble mausoleum, parking tractors, buses, cars and jeeps in dusty fields, then lining up in rows for funeral prayers.

Thursday's killing of President Pervez Musharraf's most powerful political opponent plunged Pakistan into turmoil and badly damaged plans to restore democracy in this nuclear-armed U.S. ally.

Angry Bhutto supporters torched cars, trains and and stores in violence that killed at least 10 people. The attack on Bhutto also killed 20 others.

Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro said Friday the government had no immediate plan to postpone Jan. 8 parliamentary elections, despite the growing chaos and a top opposition leader's decision to boycott the poll.

"Right now the elections stand where they were," he told a news conference. "We will consult all the political parties to take any decision about it."

Bhutto's funeral procession began Friday afternoon at her ancestral residence in the southern town of Naudero. Her plain wood coffin - draped in the red, green and black flag of her Pakistan People's Party - was carried in a white ambulance toward her family's massive white mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh, several miles away.

She was to be interred next to her father, also a popular former prime minister who met a violent death, said Nazir Dhoki, a spokesman for Bhutto's party.

"She was not just the leader of the PPP, she was a leader of the whole country. I don't know what will happen to the country now," said Nazakat Soomro, 32.

Charred vehicles burned in overnight rioting lay at the roadside in the town. Violence intensified in some cities Friday. A mob in Karachi looted three banks and set them on fire, police said.

About 7,000 people in the central city of Multan ransacked seven banks and a gas station and threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas. In the capital, Islamabad, about 100 protesters burned tires in a commercial quarter of the city.

Paramilitary rangers were given the authority to use live fire to stop rioters from damaging property in southern Pakistan, said Maj. Asad Ali, the rangers' spokesman. "We have orders to shoot at sight," he said.

Violent mobs burned 10 railway stations and several trains across Bhutto's Sindh province, forcing the suspension of all train service between the city of Karachi and the eastern Punjab province, said Mir Mohammed Khaskheli, a senior railroad official. The rioters uprooted one section of the track leading to the Indian border, he said.

About 4,000 Bhutto party supporters rallied in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday and several hundred of them ransacked the office of the main pro-Musharraf party, burning furniture and stationery. The office was empty and no one was hurt.

Protesters, carrying the green, red and black flags of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party shouted "Musharraf dog" and "Bhutto was alive yesterday, Bhutto is alive today."

In Peshawar, protesters also burned the office of a small party allied with Musharraf.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...