Fallout of the Benazir assassination

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 there.

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.