Benazir laid to rest amid massive outpouring of grief

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Rattodero, Pakistan, Dec 28 (UNI) The body of assassinated former Prime Minister and charismatic leader Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest in her family graveyard at Garhi Khuda Baksh amid scenes of unprecedented grief and mourning.

Benazir was laid to rest next to her father and former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was executed in 1979, in the white mausoleum she had ordered built during her first term in power.

Her brothers Shahnawaz and Murtaza, who also met unnatural deaths, are also buried there.

Crowds of mourners, running into thousands, wept and beat their heads and chests as her body was taken from the ancestral Bhutto home here. They also shouted anti-US and anti-Musharraf slogans, blaming them for her death.

Earlier, the mourners offered the 'namaz-e-janaza' (funeral prayers) for the late leader, which were led by Hafiz Hakim Ali Mangi. Her relatives, friends, important personalities, party leaders and workers were also present.

Her husband Asif Ali Zardari, who could not control his tears, accompanied the closed coffin draped with the green, red and black party colours as it was brought to the graveyard in an ambulance. Her three children -- Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa -- accompanied their father at praying at her grave after her burial.

Former Prime Minister and one-time rival Nawaz Sharif who also planned to be present, was dissuaded from attending by Mr Zardari in the wake of the security situation.

Benazir, 54, was killed in a gun and bomb attack in Rawalpindi last evening as she was leaving a party rally in the historic Liaqat Bagh. About 20 party workers were killed in a simultaneous suicide blast.

The two-time Prime Minister, who returned to Pakistan on October 19 after nine years of self-exile, had earlier emerged unscathed from a suicide attack on her procession in which 139 people were killed and scores injured.

Violence had erupted throughout the country after reports of her death spread. According to reports today, Islamabad was peaceful, though reports of further violence were received from Karachi, Hyderabad and Lahore. Military spokesman Maj Gen Waheed Arshad said troops had been despatched to cities like her hometown Larkana, Rohri and Shadad Kot to help the local authorities maintain law and order, while Rangers had taken up position in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Muzaffarabad and Gujranwala.

Meanwhile, Election Commission Secretary Kanwar Dilshad wondered why there was speculation that the January 8 elections could be postponed and asserted they would be held as scheduled. Last night, Mr Sharif had already announced that his PML (N) would boycott them.

British Foreign Secretary David Milliband also called up Mr Sharif and discussed the situation with him.


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