GARHI KHUDA BAKHSH, Pakistan — Wailing and beating their chests, tens of thousands of people paid homage to Benazir Bhutto Saturday on the one-year anniversary of her assassination — an event that dashed U.S. hopes the moderate Muslim politician would regain power and galvanize the campaign against al-Qaida.
The commemoration came amid heightened tensions with India over the Mumbai terror attacks and a Pakistani troop buildup along their shared border, though Pakistan’s leaders used the occasion to call for peace.
“We don’t want to fight, we don’t want to have war, we don’t want to have aggression with our neighbors,” Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a televised speech.
Tensions rose between the nuclear-armed neighbors after Delhi blamed Pakistani militants for last month’s three-day rampage in India’s financial capital and edged higher Friday with Pakistani intelligence officials saying the army had deployed troops toward the Indian border.
India’s foreign minister urged Pakistan to focus on fighting homegrown militant violence and avoid “war hysteria.”
“I appeal to Pakistan and Pakistani leaders, do not unnecessarily try to create tension,” Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. “Do not try to deflect the issue. A problem has to be tackled face to face.”
Bhutto was killed in a gun-and-suicide bomb attack on Dec. 27, 2007, as she was leaving a campaign rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, just outside the capital of Islamabad.
She was campaigning to return her Pakistan People’s Party to power in parliamentary elections — a scenario supported by the United States and other Western governments, who liked her mass appeal among the country’s 160 million people as well as her secular credentials.
The United States also said Islamic extremists carried out the attack.