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Pakistanis Hold Candlelight Vigils for Bhutto


Days after opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's funeral, and nationwide riots, some people are choosing peaceful ways to channel their anger and frustration. In cities across the country, mourners still pray for their slain leader and their country. VOA's Ravi Khanna has more.

All across the country from Islamabad to Peshawar and elsewhere, Pakistanis continue memorializing a slain leader even after last week's Islamic funeral. Never in recent history have people continued conducting candlelight vigils like this one long after the formal religious burial.

In Karachi, people gathered at Bhutto's house to read the Holy Koran and say prayers.

And in Rawalpindi, police arrested several supporters of the slain opposition leader, and fired tear gas into a protest rally. Police also arrested a number of people for burning tires, a symbol of protest against the government.

People lit candles and scattered rose petals at the spot where the former prime minister was slain.

In the candlelight vigil in the capital, Islamabad, mourners wept and decorated a shrine to the slain leader with flowers.

One man was overcome with grief over the death of the former prime minister.

Fatima Ahsan, a social worker, told VOA she was angry with the government for a killing she equated to slaying of democracy in her country.

"I mean, I don't have the words to express the sorrow I feel," she said. "Another national leader is gone. I think this is how the government plans to deal with the democratic processes and democracy in this country. They do not want democracy," she said.

Another participant, Asha Amirali, said she was also very sad.

"I'm very angry as well. I'm very angry at the government," she said. "I'm very angry with the way they've dealt with it. I'm very angry with the lies that they're telling at this time."

There were people from all walks of life offering prayers for Bhutto - human rights activists, students, her party workers and also the common man on the street.

Aasim Sajjad, a fellow mourner, expressed hope that Bhutto's death would present an opportunity to her party.

"As much as there is sorrow, there is lso a sense that perhaps this will be an opportunity for all of us, who like Benazir have spent their lives fighting against dictatorship," she said. "Maybe this will be the catalyst to bring us all together."

Watching events in Pakistan, the political pundits at home and in Washington say with Bhutto gone, the country has no other leader of her stature. And they say the impact of her death on the Pakistani people has made the situation more difficult for already beleaguered President Pervez Musharraf.

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