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Normalcy in Pak after three days of anarchy

world Updated: Dec 31, 2007 13:52 IST
Normalcy in Pakistan after three days of anarchy

Normalcy returned to Pakistan on Monday after the death of 44 people in three days of widespread street violence in the wake of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination.

Attacks on private and government property erupted shortly after Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi on Thursday evening as tens of thousands took to the streets, blaming the government of President Pervez Musharraf for the murder.

The worst hit in the mayhem was the state-run Pakistan Railways.

Mobs torched 72 train coaches and 18 railway stations in Sindh, Bhutto's home province. Four railway stations were damaged. The violence left hundreds of passengers stranded at different stations.

Violence was also reported from all parts of Pakistan including the cities of Lahore, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Karachi and Peshawar.

According to officials, 173 bank offices were gutted and 26 damaged, 158 government offices torched and 42 damaged, 26 petrol stations set on fire, 370 vehicles burnt and 61 damaged, and 765 shops razed.

Rail and road links between Sindh and the rest of the country remained cut off for three days. A caravan of 26 buses left Karachi on Monday, guarded by paramilitary troops.

According to the government, the total losses in the violence totalled billions of rupees.

A huge amount of cash was also looted from ATM machines. Likewise, several shops selling expensive items were broken into.

The violence subsided after the army was called out in parts of Sindh on Friday evening. However, it was only on Monday when almost all business centres opened. A few offices of international organisations still remained closed.

As a precaution, the government has ordered that educational institutions will remain shut till January 3. Some private institutions have announced that they will reopen only after the Jan 8 elections, which may however be postponed.

The Karachi Stock Market that opened on Monday after a break of three days crashed. The KSE-100 index was down by more than 700 points in the opening session.

Long queues of vehicles were seen at petrol and gas stations that also opened Monday morning. Many vehicles were being pushed to the stations as they have run out of fuel during the three-day closure.

Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari, appointed co-chairman of the party along with his son Bilawal, appealed to the masses to calm down.