Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Bhutto buried as Pakistan reels

Throngs peaceful at ceremony, but, nearby, mobs took control.

GARHI KHUDA BAKHSH, Pakistan - They came to the crumbling, dirt-poor village by the tens of thousands yesterday to pay homage as Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest in the giant family mausoleum, the latest victim in Pakistan's premier political family.

The former prime minister, assassinated Thursday in Rawalpindi, was buried in a simple ceremony and without pomp. Followers choked the village as they pushed to reach the graveside in the five-domed mausoleum, a replica of the Taj Mahal.

But the scene was peaceful compared with nearby Larkana, where police disappeared and mobs took control, torching buildings and cars.

Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, and son, Bilawal, 19, shoveled earth into the grave after her body had been lowered, amid scenes of almost inconsolable grief in the crowds. The grave was covered with a red sequined cloth.

At Bhutto's home, where her body was taken before the funeral, there was wailing and hysteria. Men and women hugged and sobbed. Her coffin was taken into the house draped in the flag of her Pakistan People's Party.

Bhutto was buried beside her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the first elected prime minister of Pakistan. He was executed in 1979 by Gen. Zia ul Haq, who had overthrown him in a 1977 military coup. A space was cut in the marble floor of the mausoleum to accommodate his daughter's body.

The assassination had the shock effect of bringing the feuding Bhutto clan together. The mourners included the daughter and widow of Benazir's brother, Murtaza Bhutto. The two had previously accused Benazir of complicity in his death after he was gunned down in Karachi in 1996.

Murtaza Bhutto's body is buried in the same mausoleum, as is that of another brother, Shahnawaz Bhutto, who was found dead in mysterious circumstances in 1985.

Yesterday, the throngs arrived at the burial site on foot, kicking up clouds of dust as they walked. Few cars dared venture into the streets around Larkana, which angry young men burning tires had turned into a danger zone.

Police were not on the road to the tomb or at the site, apparently fearing that their presence would incite the crowd. Nor were there any Pakistani flags - just the red, green and black colors of Bhutto's party. Chants from the crowd blamed Pakistan's president for her murder: "Pervez Musharraf is a dog" and "We don't need Pakistan."

Zulfikar Ali Mirza, a former member of parliament who was close to Bhutto, said: "She was a risk-taker. She believed in destiny. She used to say, 'When my time comes, nothing can save me.' "

Burnt cars littered the streets of Larkana, among them police vehicles that had been smashed and stripped. Shops had been looted. When darkness fell, most people disappeared from the streets. A senior local police officer, Shabir Ahmed Shaikh, said his men were afraid to go out into the streets in uniform.

Larkana is in bandit country, where it's unsafe even in normal times. And these were far from normal times.