When I heard the terrible news of the killing of Benazir Bhutto on
Thursday, the initial reaction was one of shock which then turned into
concern about the fallout of this event. There would definitely be
reprisal attacks and things could spiral out of hand. Mobs have been
known to wreak havoc on occasions, even within the capital, and an event
as big as this could cause chaos everywhere.
Most of my colleagues live in or around Rawalpindi, where the
assassination took place, so they left as soon as the news was out to
avoid any trouble on the way. Though both my home and office are within
the main area of Islamabad, I also decided to stock up on fuel and other
basics and head back to my house. Then there was news of riots in
Karachi and the rest of the Sindh province, as well as shootings as
close as my previous residence near Rawalpindi.
My two major sources of news gave a very contrasting view of the
situation. Whereas the BBC's focus was mostly on Bhutto and her life,
CNN seemed to portray a country on the brink of civil war with terrorists
running amok and the country's nuclear assets at great risk. Though this
tragedy is a huge setback for the whole country, we have survived
many others and will pull through this one as well.
I finally got out this morning to see what the situation on the
streets was like. It was heartening to see that things in Islamabad
seemed quite normal. People were out in parks and gas stations were open
with long lines of cars. Despite the absence of security personnel,
traffic rules were being followed and everything seemed calm. A friend
in Karachi also confirmed that the rioting and violence had subsided
Now the question is what the future of Pakistan's political
landscape will be like. We may have a chance if there is solid evidence
of Al-Qaeda's hand in the assassination. In that case, I'm sure the
whole nation will unite to get rid of this menace and continue on the
path to stability. Otherwise, the blame game will go on and create more
unrest in the coming weeks.
With the Pakistan People's Party missing its charismatic leader and
Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League boycotting the elections, there is also
little point in going to the polls on the 8th January. Not that I know
many people who would have voted for either of these, but their
participation would have given some legitimacy to the next government.
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