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Security tightened after violence wracks country

Published Dec 28, 2007 12:00am

LAHORE, Dec 27: Paramilitary forces were alerted on Thursday night after spontaneous protests erupted almost in all parts of the country and violence claimed the lives of eight people in Karachi and Lahore after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in Rawalpindi.

Intense violence was reported from all parts of Sindh, especially Karachi and Larkana, Ms Bhutto’s hometown.

Fear and chaos ruled Karachi after news spread about Ms Bhutto’s death. The ensuing violence in the Sindh metropolis claimed at least five lives while more than 150 vehicles, some petrol pumps and a hospital were set ablaze.

The city descended into anarchy as armed mobs came out in the streets, to be joined later by gangsters, holding up panicked people stuck in traffic jams on major roads.

The traffic came to a standstill after hundreds of thousands of people, anticipating violence, fled their offices and sought to reach their homes. Law-enforcers were nowhere to be seen.

As fearful citizens made calls to inquire about the safety of their friends and family and learn about the traffic situation, the telecommunications networks jammed because of overloading.

This sparked off rumours, further fuelling panic and the sense of insecurity. A mob attacked Shahdadkot police station and freed 30 under-trial prisoners from the judicial lock-up.

Sources said that attackers had also took away arms from the ‘Malkhana’ of the Muhktiarkar’s office.

Protests and violence erupted in Lahore and most parts of Punjab.

The civic life was completely paralysed as shops shut down and transporters and commuters took their vehicles off roads.

PPP activists, soon after the news, came out on roads and started shouting slogans against the government.

They burnt tyres, vehicles, banners of PML-Q candidates, public transport, police vehicles, offices and houses of some PML-Q office-bearers and state buldings.

Protests were also reported from Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir and Multan.