India wanted External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to represent it at Benazir Bhutto’s funeral on Friday, but was told by the Pakistan government not to send anyone. The security situation was among the reasons cited unofficially, senior officials said.
The Pakistani government, itself in a state of shock, could not cope with the influx of leaders from across the world. Officially, there was no international representation at Benazir’s funeral because it was a private, not a state funeral. Even the Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan, Satyabrata Pal, did not attend the funeral, officials said.
Benazir’s husband Asif Ali Zardari also told the Indian government not to send someone for the funeral, but plans to have a public memorial service for her some time soon, officials said.
However, a senior official, citing the fact that three days of official mourning had been declared, said: “She has been treated the best among all former leaders in Pakistan.” There is no “culture of official funerals” in Pakistan. That was probably why there was no Pakistani flag draping Benazir’s coffin when it was released from hospital.
Another constricting factor is the need to bury the body within 24 hours (before the following sunset), giving very little time to make adequate arrangements.
The Indian government, however, is not going to go public with these exchanges because it hopes to avoid embarrassing the Pakistani government and people.
“After all, in the sub-continent, it is not a nice feeling to have to refuse hospitality to someone who wants to come,” an official said.
The Congress Working Committee adopted a resolution on Friday expressing shock and grief at Benazir’s brutal assassination. Party chief Sonia Gandhi said the CWC deeply mourned Benazir’s untimely death and conveyed its heartfelt condolences to the members of her bereaved family, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the people of Pakistan.