Hundreds of Thousands Attend Bhutto's Funeral; Al Qaeda Blamed for Death
Former Prime Minister
Garki Khuda Bakhsh, December 28, 2007. Hundreds of thousands of mourners
thronged the mausoleum of Pakistan's most famous political dynasty in an
outpouring of emotion for Benazir Bhutto. The government said Al Qaeda
and the Taliban were responsible for her death, claiming it intercepted
an Al Qaeda leader's message of congratulation for the assassination.
But many of Bhutto's furious supporters blamed President Pervez
Musharraf's government for the shooting and bombing attack on the former
prime minister, Musharraf's most powerful opponent. They rampaged
through several cities in violence that left at least 23 dead less than
two weeks before crucial parliamentary elections.
Paramilitary rangers were given the authority to use live fire against
rioters in southern Pakistan, said Maj. Asad Ali, the rangers'
"We have orders to shoot on sight," he said.
"We have the evidence that Al Qaeda and Taliban were behind the suicide
attack on Benazir Bhutto," Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said.
Thursday's attack on Bhutto plunged Pakistan into turmoil and badly
damaged plans to restore democracy in this nuclear-armed nation, a key
U.S. ally in the war on terror.
Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said that on Friday, the
government recorded an "intelligence intercept" in which militant leader
Baitullah Mehsud "congratulated his people for carrying out this
Cheema described Mehsud as an "Al Qaeda leader" who was also behind the
Karachi bomb blast in October against Bhutto that killed more than 140
people. He also announced the formation of two inquiries into Bhutto's
death, one to be carried out by a high court judge and another by
Bhutto was killed Thursday when a suicide attacker shot at her and then
blew himself up as she left a rally in Rawalpindi. Authorities initially
said she died from bullet wounds, and a surgeon who treated her said she
died from the impact of shrapnel on her skull.
But Cheema said she was killed when she tried to duck back into the
vehicle, and the shock waves from the blast smashed her head into a
lever attached to the sunroof, fracturing her skull, he said.
Cheema said Pakistani security forces would hunt down those responsible
for her death: "They will definitely be brought to justice."
He said other senior politicians were also under threat of militant
attack, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who promised to
boycott parliamentary elections on Jan. 8 in response to Bhutto's
Cheema showed a videotape of the attack, with Bhutto waving, smiling and
chatting with supporters from the sunroof as her car sat unmoving on the
street outside the rally. Three gunshots rang out, the camera appeared
to fall, and the tape ended.
On Friday, Bhutto's supporters ransacked banks, waged shootouts with
police and burned trains and stations in a spasm of violence less than
two weeks before parliamentary elections.
Soldiers patrolled the streets of the southern cities of Hyderabad and
Karachi, witnesses said. At least 23 people were killed in unrest, said
Ghulam Mohammed Mohtaram, home secretary for Sindh province.
Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro said the government had no immediate
plans 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."
Mourners traveled to Garhi Khuda Bakhsh by tractor, bus, car and jeep.
Many crammed inside the mausoleum and threw petals on the coffin. Women
beat their heads and chests in grief.
"As long as the moon and sun are alive, so is the name of Bhutto," they
An Islamic cleric led mourners in prayers and Bhutto's son, Bilawal, and
her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, helped lower the coffin beside the grave
of her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, also a popular former prime minister
who met a violent death. Thousands of supporters then filed in to shovel
dirt onto the grave.
Some mourners angrily blamed Musharraf, the former army chief, for
Bhutto's death, shouting "General, killer!" "Army, killer."
The death of the 54-year-old Bhutto left her party without a clear
successor. Her husband, who was freed in December 2004 after eight years
in detention on graft charges, is one contender, although he lacks the
cachet of a blood relative.
"I don't know what will happen to the country now," said Nazakat Soomro,
A mob in Karachi looted at least three banks and set them on fire, and
engaged in a shootout with police that left three officers wounded,
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
Earlier, 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 India, he said.
About 4,000 Bhutto supporters rallied in the northwestern city of
Peshawar and several hundred ransacked the empty office of the main pro-Musharraf
party, burning furniture and stationery.
Protesters shouted "Musharraf dog" and "Bhutto was alive yesterday,
Bhutto is alive today." Dozens of police in riot gear followed the
protesters but did not intervene.
In other violence, a roadside bomb killed a local leader from the ruling
party and six of his associates as they drove through Swat in
northwestern Pakistan, where troops have been fighting followers of a
pro-Taliban cleric in recent months, said Mohib Ullah, a local police
Many cities were nearly deserted as businesses closed and public
transportation came to a halt at the start of three days of national
mourning for Bhutto.
"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."
Dr. Mussadiq Khan, a surgeon who treated Bhutto, said Friday that she
died from shrapnel that hit her on the right side of the skull. Bhutto
had no heartbeat or pulse when she arrived at the hospital and doctors
failed to resuscitate her, he said.
Soomro, the prime minister, told the Cabinet on Friday that Bhutto's
husband did not allow an autopsy, according to a government statement.
After the killing, Sharif, another former premier and leader of a rival
opposition party, announced his party would boycott the elections.
"I am worried about the country, about the people. Nobody is secure,
there is total insecurity," Sharif said.
Opposition politician and former cricket star Imran Khan blamed
Musharraf for Bhutto's death, saying he did not give her proper
security. Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, India, where he was on a
private visit, he called on the president to resign and for an
independent judicial probe into her death.
Bhutto, whose party has long been popular among Pakistan's legions of
poor, served two terms as prime minister between 1988 and 1996. Both
elected governments were toppled amid accusations of corruption and
mismanagement, but she was respected in the West for her liberal outlook
and determination to combat Islamic extremism.
Source: Fox News
Our condolences with Bhutto’s family,
friends and her people. Rest in peace.