Mourners overwhelm Bhutto funeral

Hundreds of thousands of mourners converged on the ancestral village of assassinated Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who was laid to rest Friday beside her father's grave.

Hundreds of thousands of mourners converged on the ancestral village of assassinated Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who was laid to rest Friday amid a wave of violent protests sweeping through cities across the country.

Mourners carry Benazir Bhutto's coffin to its final resting place at her family's mausoleum in Gari Khuda Bakhsh Friday. ((Shakil Adil/Associated Press))

Bhutto, who was 54, was interred Friday afternoon in her family's mausoleum in the southern village of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh beside the grave of her father, executed former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Shewas killed Thursday after speaking at a rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, about 18 kilometres south of the capital, Islamabad.

At the beginning of Friday's ceremony in her native southernprovince of Sindh,Bhutto's plain wood coffin, draped in the red, green and black flag of her Pakistan Peoples Party, was carried in a white ambulance amid a swirl of mourners eager to get close to the slain politician.

Impeded by the massive crowds, the procession slowlyinched its way through thevillage of Naudero toward the mausoleum.

Asif Ali Zardari, right with white cap, husband of Benazir Bhutto, lays a shawl on her grave Friday. ((Shakil Adil/Associated Press))

Earlier,mourners anddignitaries swelled around the Bhutto family home in Sindh to pay their respects toBhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, and their three children.

"Benazir is alive, Bhutto is alive," some mourners cried out.

"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.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whocondemned the attack, announced three days of mourning for Bhutto. Duringthat time,schools, commercial centres and banks will remain closed.

Bhutto had just finished addressing thousands of supporters Thursdayand was waving to the crowd from the open roof of a vehicle when a man stepped from the crowd,fired at the politician and then blew himself up. Twenty others died in the blast.

At least23 dead in violence: official

Hours before her funeral,Bhutto'senraged supporters rampaged through cities to protest her assassination less than two weeks before a crucial election, ransacking banks and setting train stations ablaze,according to officials.

Security around Bhutto on Thursday was criticized by people in herparty, while other observers have speculated whether Musharraf's government or Pakistan's security forces were involved in the attack.

Supporters of Benazir Bhutto surround an ambulance carrying her coffin upon arrival for burial in Gari Khuda Bakhsh on Friday. ((Shakil Adil/Associated Press))

The army was called in to help keep order in several cities in Sindh, said Ghulam Mohammed Mohtaram, the province's home secretary, who said 23 people had died in unrest across severalcitiesin Pakistan since Bhutto's assassination.

Reuters reported that at least three policemen are among the dead.

Violence also broke out in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and many other parts of Pakistan, where Bhutto's supporters burned banks, state-run grocery stores and private shops. Some set fire to election offices for the ruling party, according to Pakistani media.

'Men were crying'

Canadian Nayyar Javed, who was born in Pakistan and moved to Saskatoon in 1969,was travelling by bus from Lahore to Islamabad on Thursday when word spread that Bhutto had been killed.

"Men were crying — like they were wailing and crying — and they said, 'Benazir has been killed,' "she told CBC News on Friday.

Angry supporters of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto burn tires during a protest rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Friday. ((K.M. Chaudary/Associated Press))

By the time Javed got to Islamabad, people there were rioting.

"People really didn't know what to do," she said. "They were burning buses, and so there was police and there were military. So my reaction was total shock, and not really knowing what is going to happen to the country. And who did it.And we still don't know who did that."

Despite the widespreadunrest, Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro told a news conference Friday that the government had no immediate plans to postpone the Jan. 8 parliamentary election.

Bhutto'skilling was condemned worldwide, but has also prompted some fears that it could tumble the nuclear nation into political chaos.

"We should all bevery concerned because Pakistan is not an ordinary Muslim nation, this has tobe understood in the West," said Akbar Amhed, a leading authority on Pakistan.

"It has 165 million people, it is the only nuclear power in the Muslim world and what happens in Pakistan does not only affect the region. It has an impact on the entire area that is in the Middle East, central Asia and south Asia then far beyond that region."

With files from the Associated Press