GARHI KHUDA BAKSH: Many chanted for justice and blamed the government for their heroine’s death. Others consoled each other as they wept.
The funeral for slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on Friday was filled with the rawest emotions for the hundreds of thousands who converged on her family’s mausoleum here.
People crammed inside the cavernous hall, throwing rose petals on the coffin. Some cried, others chanted “Benazir is alive”, as her body was laid to rest. One man sobbed uncontrollably, crying, “My sister has gone”. Another fainted as several thousand people jostled to get a last glimpse.
Benazir’s son, Bilawal, and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, who wore a traditional white Sindhi cap and appeared composed, helped lift the coffin into the grave.
A vast crowd congregated outside to pay its last respects, lining up in hundreds of rows for the prayers and later filing in to throw sand on the grave.
They had arrived by tractors, buses, cars and jeeps that were parked in dusty fields surrounding the mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, where her father, former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is also buried.
Party leaders tried to pacify the crowd and urged them to stop.
Draped in the flag of her Pakistan People’s Party, the coffin had been carried about five kilometres (three miles) in a white ambulance from Benazir’s ancestral home to the vast marble mausoleum, passing a burning passenger train on the way.
Signboards that had been erected two months ago to mark Benazir’s return from exile to Pakistan still dotted the route. On one, someone had scrawled, “Benazir you are the hope for the poor”.
In front of the mausoleum, with its three domes, mourners wept and hugged each other.
Some chanted slogans against figures in the pro-government political party, as they waited for the coffin to be shifted inside. Others shouted, “As long as the moon and sun are alive, so is the name of Bhutto.”
People who gathered for Friday’s funeral repeatedly chanted slogans against the former top elected officials in Sindh and Punjab provinces, who are members of the ruling, pro-Musharraf party.
Bhutto supporters suspect those officials were complicit in attacks on the opposition leader, which the government denies.
“Why is it only Sindhi prime ministers are assassinated or killed?” said Rahmatullah, 25, who goes by one name, referring to the demise of the Bhuttos and the country’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, who was shot to death in 1951.
All three died in Rawalpindi.
“Now we will bring revolution,” Rahmatullah said.
Another mourner disagreed.
“No we need Pakistan. It was Benazir’s mission to protect Pakistan and we will complete her mission,” said Eman Ali Shah.