Bhutto's husband and son appointed PPP co-chairmen

SKY: Bilawal Bhutto will co-chair PPP along with his father; at least 44 killed in rioting.

Bhutto mourning 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bhutto mourning 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, will lead her Pakistan People Party along with his father, Asif Ali Zardari. Bilawal Bhutto is presently a law student at Oxford. Meanwhile, Islamic militants said Saturday they had no link to Benazir Bhutto's assassination, dismissing government claims that a leader of pro-Taliban forces in Pakistan orchestrated the suicide attack on the opposition leader. Bhutto's aides also said they doubted that militant commander Baitullah Mehsud was behind the attack, and accused the government of a cover-up. The dispute, along with conflicting reports about Bhutto's exact cause of death, were expected to further inflame the violence wracking this nuclear-armed nation two days after the popular former prime minister was killed in a suicide attack. With Bhutto's supporters rampaging across the country, Pakistan's election commission called an emergency meeting Monday to discuss the impact on upcoming parliamentary elections. Nine election offices in Bhutto's home province of Sindh in the south were burned to the ground, along with voter rolls and ballot boxes, the commission said in a statement. The violence also hampered the printing of ballot papers, training of poll workers and other pre-election logistics, the statement said. The US government, which sees Pakistan as a crucial ally in the war on terror, has pushed President Pervez Musharraf to keep the election on track to promote stability, moderation and democracy in Pakistan, US officials said. Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro said Friday the government had no immediate plans to postpone the election, despite the violence and the decision by Nawaz Sharif, another opposition leader, to boycott the poll. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party also called a meeting Sunday to decide whether to participate in the vote. Her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that their son would read a message left by Bhutto and addressed to the party in event of her death. Meanwhile, mass rioting following Bhutto's assassination led to the deaths of at least 44 people and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, the government said. Rioters destroyed 176 banks, 72 train cars and 18 rail stations, said Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema. At least 100 prisoners were sprung from jails, he said. Speaking at a news conference, Cheema reiterated the government's claim that Islamic militant leader Baitullah Mehsud was behind Bhutto's killing, despite Mehsud's denials. "We have the evidence that he is involved," Cheema said. "Why should he (Mehsud) accept that he has done it. It does not suit him. I don't think anybody has the capability to carry out such suicide attacks except for those people." Cheema said Pakistan did not need foreign help to probe the killing. "This is not an ordinary criminal matter in which we require assistance of the international community. I think we are capable of handling it," he said. Cheema also responded to reports by Bhutto aides that the former prime minister was killed by gunshot wounds and not by the force of a subsequent suicide attack as the government said. "We gave you absolute facts, nothing but the facts," he said. "It was corroborated by the doctors' report. It was corroborated by the evidence collected." "It is immaterial as to how she died. What is more important is who are the people who killed her," he said. He said Bhutto's party was free to exhume her body if they wanted and conduct a post mortem. The government has said Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari did not allow such an examination before the opposition leader was buried Friday.