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.
Other areas were nearly deserted Friday morning as businesses closed and public transportation came to a halt at the start of three days of national mourning for the opposition leader.
"The repercussions of her murder will continue to unfold for months, even years," read a mournful editorial in the Dawn newspaper. "What is clear is that Pakistan's political landscape will never be the same, having lost one of its finest daughters."
As many Pakistanis mourned, others demanded to learn who killed her. Musharraf blamed the attack on the resurgent Islamic militants Pakistan is fighting along the border region with Afghanistan, pledging in a nationally televised speech that "we will not rest until we eliminate these terrorists and root them out."
But authorities said they had yet to identify the attacker. "It is too early to say who may have been responsible," said Saud Aziz, the chief of police in Rawalpindi, the city near Islamabad where the attack took place. A joint task force of police and officials from other law enforcement agencies were investigating, he said.
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko in Washington said the agency was trying to determine the validity of a purported claim of responsibility for the attack by al-Qaida.
President Bush, who spoke briefly by phone with Musharraf, looked tense as he spoke to reporters, denouncing the "murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy."
In the wake of the killing, Nawaz Sharif, another former premier and leader of a rival opposition party, announced his party would boycott the elections.
The election was seen as a pivotal step toward restoring democracy here, eight years after Musharraf seized power in a coup. It also was intended to restore credibility to the government after Musharraf used a six-week state of emergency to arrest thousands of political opponents and crack down on the independent judiciary.
However, with Sharif's party on the sidelines and Bhutto's party leaderless and in disarray, the election will have little, if any, credibility. "This assassination is the most serious setback for democracy in Pakistan," said Rasul Baksh Rais, a political scientist at Lahore's University of Management Sciences. "It shows extremists are powerful enough to disrupt the democratic process."
Sharif demanded Musharraf's resignation. "Musharraf is the cause of all the problems," Sharif said. Bhutto's death closed another grim chapter in Pakistan's bloodstained history, 28 years after her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, another ex-prime minister, was hanged by a military dictatorship just a few miles from where she was killed.
As the news of her killing spread, supporters gathered at the hospital where Bhutto had been taken, smashed glass doors, stoned cars and chanted, "Killer, Killer, Musharraf."
The U.N. Security Council vigorously denounced the killing and urged "all Pakistanis to exercise restraint and maintain stability in the country."
The United States, meanwhile, struggled to reformulate its plan to stabilize the country based on a rapprochement between Bhutto and Musharraf.
Next to Musharraf, Bhutto, 54, was the country's best known political figure, serving two terms as prime minister between 1988 and 1996. She was respected in the West for her liberal outlook and determination to combat Islamic extremism.
Bhutto had just addressed more than 5,000 supporters in Rawalpindi on Thursday when the attacker struck as she was leaving the rally in a white sports utility vehicle.
A smiling Bhutto had stuck her head out of the sunroof to respond to youths chanting her name, said Sardar Qamar Hayyat, an official from Bhutto's party.
"Then I saw a thin, young man jumping toward her vehicle from the back and opening fire. Moments later, I saw her speeding vehicle going away. That was the time when I heard a blast and fell down," Hayyat said.
Bhutto was rushed into emergency surgery, but died from her gunshot wounds. Another 20 people were killed in the bombing, according to police and witnesses. Hours after Bhutto's death, supporters carried her body out of the hospital in a wooden coffin