Benazir laid to rest; riots continue as troops called

Dec. 28 | Updated: Dec 29 2007, 05:27am hrs
Pakistans former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest in her native village, as the government deployed troops on the streets to quell riots in several cities.

Bhutto was buried in her ancestral village of Garhi Khuda Baksh, near the southern city of Larkana, 480 km north of the commercial capital, Karachi. Thousands of Bhuttos supporters were shown on television weeping and struggling to touch her coffin. Bhuttos husband Asif Ali Zardari, her sister Sanam and her three children attended the burial.

Riots erupted across the nation following Bhuttos assassination on Thursday, as protesters poured onto the streets and set fire to cars, banks and government offices in Karachi, Larkana, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and dozens of towns across the southern province of Sindh. The government has ordered a judicial inquiry into Bhuttos killing.

The opposition leader died from fractures to her skull, interior minister Hamid Nawaz said in an interview in Islamabad. It is unclear whether the fatal injuries were caused by bullets or the force of the suicide bomb blast at an election rally in Rawalpindi, he added.

Bhutto was laid to rest in the same tomb where her father former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was buried two decades ago after being executed. Bhuttos brothers, one of whom was murdered in France and another in a Karachi shooting, are also buried there.

Elections will be held as scheduled on January 8, Interim Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro said. ``Any decision on a possible postponement will be discussed with political parties, he told reporters in the capital, Islamabad.

The stock exchange, central bank and all markets remained closed after President Pervez Musharraf announced three days of national mourning. The interior minister said the government suspects al-Qaeda was involved in Thursdays suicide bomb attack, although he said he couldnt confirm reports the terrorist network had claimed responsibility.

Pakistans army deployed troops in Larkana and the southern towns of Shahdadkot and Rohri, army spokesman Waheed Arshad said on the phone. As many as 12,000 personnel of the Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary force, were positioned across the southern province of Sindh, Dawn News reported.

Domestic flights were cancelled and train services suspended, GEO television reported. At least five people were killed in Karachi, as demonstrators exchanged gunfire with police, according to the Edhi Foundation, Pakistans biggest ambulance service.Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said his party will boycott national elections next month, and he called on Musharraf to quit as the nations leader.``Under the present circumstances and under Musharraf, neither is campaigning possible nor is a free election, Sharif told reporters in Islamabad. Police said at least 16 people died and more than 60 were injured in Thursdays attack.