It was a tragic day for all, political parties and civilians alike. The eve of 27th December, 2007, has been marked as the gloomiest day in the history of Pakistan and Pakistani politics and rightly so but for different reasons. Benazir Bhutto has passed away and named Asif Ali Zardari, her husband as the chair of PPP. He in turn named his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a nineteen year old Oxford University Politics major and their eldest child and only son.
The speed with which President Pervez Musharraf started blaming the terrorist for this horrendous act, matches that of his favored contemporaries in Washington. With in one hour of the confirmation of BB's assassination, it was blamed on Alqaeda and Taleban. This is not to say that she had not voiced her concern on the issue of Alqaeda or Taleban threatening her, no denying in that. It is simply a matter of listening to the victim here, which the government successfully failed to do so. Let me explain.
Since the day she landed here in Karachi, the PPP officials had been complaining about the security breaches and security devices' failures. There had been several complaints about radio jammers not working, but unfortunately they went all in vain. That ended in two bombs going off near the homecoming motor cavalcade, of which one went off within 10 metres range. That claimed the life of as many as 138 innocent people, including the minimal police escort and private guards of BB. After that it became evident the enemy would stop at nothing. The PPP never stopped campaigning, even though it received several other threats and warnings.
The most warned about and the most dangerous places of all was indeed Rawalpindi for her. The speech was delivered in Liaquat Bagh, the same Liaquat Bagh in which Liaquat Ali Khan, one of the founding members of Pakistan, was shot in 1952 and was named after him. The speech went smooth and she returned to her vehicle. When the vehicle reached the back gate of Liaquat Bagh, the supporters starting chanting slogans and she stood in the sun roof of a bullet and bomb proof Toyota SUV, and waived back to the crowd despite of being warned by close friends. The attacker approached from the right side and four shots were heard and a moment after that a bomb went off. That resulted in the demise of BB and 38 other people including 1 suspected terrorist and 1 confirmed terrorist, the identity of whom still remain unknown.
What followed is beyond my capacity to form into a coherent script, for the grief and sorrow beset Pakistanis more than they could anticipate. The news spread faster than jungle fire leaving Pakistanis confused at first, shocked, and then worrying at the end. In metropolitans as large as Karachi, the second most populated city in the world (as of 2005 according to wikipedia), also the most sensitive Pakistani city with regards to politics, when news like this is heard everyone thinks of the same thing. To get to home safely. In a city of 16 million people (unconfirmed), we outrun the already spacious roads when everyone tries to get to home at the same time.
Soon, angry mourners took to streets and started burning vehicles, while opportunists started robbing and looting. This continued for three days. Throughout the country scenes of chaos were seen. In Sindh province orders were given to the police and rangers to shoot any miscreants at sight. Still they managed to burn down 2 trains, 1000+ vehicles, around 40 banks, 4 factories (only in Karachi), around 50 gas stations, and claimed the life of 25+ people including a 10 year old boy. It was like we were in the middle of a civil war. Trapped in our homes, running out of food supplies, and getting information only through TV and internet.
On 28th December, 2007, the Ministry of Interior held a press conference and claimed to have determined the cause of death only to be proved wrong by a video (posted earlier) and an amateur photographer present at the scene whose pictures prove that the gunshots killed her. Also they name Betullah Mehsud, a high ranking Alqaeda commander to be the master mind behind the assassination. He rejects the accusation. The ministry is clearly derailing and digressing the investigation and indulges in time wasting arguments on how she got killed even after the pictures and the video clearly show what exactly happened.
The most disturbing part of the conference was when the minister read out a translation of a conversation between Betullah Mehsud and "Some Maulvi Sahab". They did not play the original conversation recorded, this is where the trust is lost. The second point where it becomes doubtful is when a reporter asks a question regarding the call trace. At that, the minister simply dodged the question delivering an incomplete and incoherent mumble. President Pervez Musharraf and his administration simply refused the intervention of any independent investigation bieng carried out the first day. On the third day he agrees to let an independent investigation being conducted. Don't forget, Pervez Musharraf also ordered three days of mourning in which schools, offices and government offices were to remain closed.
Where do these all facts add up? Lets start with the investigation report. It is moot and a dangerous accusation said PPP activist Sherry Rehman. She bathed Benazir Bhutto after her death and confirmed the bullet wounds on the back of her head. It was also proved by the three photographs released on 29th December, 2007, that she was indeed killed by gunshots. Betullah Mehsud's conversation seems too bold to have been carried out just after the attacks and he denies the accusations. There were several complaints regarding failure of radio jammers in the area. Above all, the suicide bomber was able to bypass security when there were only limited entrances to where she was.
Lets move on to the situation every where else in Pakistan. In the whole country, PPP activists wreaked havoc and burnt property and vehicles at their whim. Only those areas were safe that were PPP majority. Witnesses say MQM was involved in 27th and 28th's carnage in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad (source, referred by). Furthermore, MQM's chair, Altaf Hussain, has released a very controversial remark about only the Sindhi Prime Minister's getting assassinated. Let me make this clear that there have been only three democratically elected PM's of Pakistan uptil now which are Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benaznir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif. This comment will only fan the conflict between the provinces of Sindh and Punjab. In the area of Sohrab Goth, dominated by Afghanis, there have been reports of looting and robberies. I state only about Karachi here, but things were not much different in other cities with locals looting and robbing the then helpless victims of angry mourners. As I said earlier, it seemed we were in a Civil war.
Thirdly, it was known that if Ms. Bhutto won the elections and eventually became the Prime Minister, she would have reversed the amendment passed by Musharraf which give the president supreme power in the event of an emergency rule. She would have forced Musharraf to resign from the post of President, which is dear to him more than anything in the world.
Has this situation throughout the country been created deliberately? If so, who is responsible for it? Why did the government hide facts about Bhutto's assassination? Why is Pervez Mushharraf blaming Alqaeda for her assassination without sound proof? Why was the call of Betullah Mehsud never traced? Why did Musharraf only agree to an independent investigation after the three day mourning period in which there was no activity in the whole country!? Is the government trying to cover up yet another murder? Was army deployed in the country to undermine the possibility of a free and fair election?
These are the questions that we need answers to. We, Pakistanis do not want pointless debates as to whether Benazir died due to hitting her head on the lever or she got shot. We need answers now and we're waiting anxiously.