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Thousands mark Bhutto's death anniversary

Tens of thousands of people throng the tomb of former Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto in her hometown in Sindh province to pay homage to the slain leader on her first death anniversary.

world Updated: Dec 27, 2008 13:57 IST

Tens of thousands of people on Saturday thronged the tomb of the charismatic former premier Benazir Bhutto in her hometown in Pakistan's southern Sindh province to pay homage to the slain leader on her first death anniversary, with authorities yet to track down her assassins.

Amidst tight security, Supporters of Bhutto's PPP, which heads the ruling coalition at the centre, streamed into Naudero in Sindh province from all parts of the country to participate in the events marking her death anniversary.

Bhutto, 54, was assassinated in a gun-and-suicide attack shortly after she had addressed an election rally in Rawalpindi on December 27 last year.

"The tyrants and the killers have killed her but they shall never be able to kill her ideas, which drove and inspired a generation to lofty aims," her husband President Asif Ali Zardari said in a message on the death anniversary of Bhutto, whose killers have still not been brought to justice.

"In the tradition of a true Bhutto, she faced certain death rather than abandon her principles or the people," Zardari said, adding she gave voice to the common man.

A thick blanket of fog delayed the proceedings marking the occasion, with the main event taking place at the Bhutto family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh, around which a tight security blanket has been thrown by the authorities.

Some 7,000 police personnel, 500 commandos and paramilitary forces have been deployed there in the wake of intelligence reports of possible terrorist attacks aimed at disrupting the event.

The central leadership of the PPP -- including Zardari and his son Bilawal, the party co-chairman -- have congregated in Naudero to participate in the ceremony. A meeting of the PPP's central executive committee, chaired by Bilawal, sought an early inquiry by the UN into Bhutto's assassination. The meeting also paid tribute to Bhutto for her role in the struggle against dictatorship.

Bhutto's daughters Bakhtawar and Asifa and her sister Sanam are also in Naudero. Sanam visited Bhutto's grave yesterday also and laid a floral wreath.

PPP workers poured into Naudero in convoys from all corners of Pakistan, shouting slogans like "Zinda Hey Bibi Zinda Hey" (Benazir is still alive).

Stalls selling posters and badges with photographs of Bhutto sprang up all over the town. Cassettes of Bhutto's speeches and of songs in her praise are also on sale.

Tents have been erected for the PPP workers near the mausoleum as helicopters hovered overhead, maintaining surveillance over the site.

Walk-through gates, watch towers, security barriers and CCTVs have been installed to ensure tight security in the area. Special programmes, walks, contests and seminars have also been arranged by the party in honour of Bhutto.

In the garrison city of Rawalpindi, PPP workers organised a torch rally last night to pay homage to Bhutto. The workers marched from the local Press Club towards a temporary monument at Liaquat Bagh, where Bhutto was assassinated.

The two-time ex-premier was killed barely two months after she returned to Pakistan from self-exile to lead PPP's campaign for the general election. She had earlier survived a suicide attack on her hours after her return home in October last year.

Bhutto's killing sparked widespread violence in Pakistan, especially in Sindh, that continued for several days and brought the country to a standstill. Authorities in Sindh have taken special measures to ensure that there is no untoward incident during the anniversary.