This year has been a bloody one for Pakistan (link, link, link, link, link, link) . The society has received one shock after another. But this one perhaps hurts the most, and will probably hurt for a long while to come. Today, at an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi, in the same park where the first prime minister of Pakistan was assassinated, Benazir Bhutto was killed with gunshot wounds and a bomb blast. Several other people were also killed.
This is the 4th tragedy to hit the Bhutto family. Zulfiqar Bhutto, an extremely popular prime minister was first hanged by a military government, then her brother Shahnawaz Bhutto was poisoned, her brother Murtaza Bhutto was killed in a police gunfire, and now Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated.
I have no idea what this means for Pakistan. I am in a state of shock and horror. My family is staying put at home. Cousins are scattered across the city of Karachi and are finding refuge at friends’ and relatives’ homes. There are reports of severe rioting on streets across the country, cars and buses are being burnt, and Bhutto’s supporters are overcome with grief and anger, which is resulting in violence on the streets. There is chaos and panic widespread in the communities. Chances are high that the military will be called in to try and restore order in the major cities. Who knows how long will this process of healing take?
This tragedy is a big blow to Pakistan’s stability and unity. I disagreed with her on many issues (link), but she was a politician nonetheless, and her biggest contribution to Pakistan was to keep the idea of democracy and liberalism alive. Her days were counted as ruthless militants and extremists had already called her a marked person for their terrorism. Time will perhaps tell us who was responsible for her killing, but right now the nation must weep for a loss – not just of her as a person, but of a leading figure that spoke openly and defiantly of democracy and tolerance.
I am too shocked to think of what the ramifications of this tragedy will be for Pakistani politics, President Musharraf, the federation’s unity (this can spark a fire in the Sindhi-Punjabi debate again), and the rise of extremist powers in Pakistan. Today I am thinking of her, her children, her ailing mother, and those workers from her party who believed in her and their struggle for justice through her politics. I hope and pray for the safety of all Pakistanis.
1. Watch an amateur video of the blast here.
2. According to reports, Benazir was killed by a bullet that hit her spinal cord. She had just lifted herself through the car roof to say goodbye to her supporters. She fell back inside, bleeding. The bullet proof car carrying her sped away and the bomb detonated behind her. According to some reports, Al Qaeda has taken the responsibility for her killing.
3. From ATP: John Moore, a photographer for Getty Images, said Bhutto was standing through the sunroof of her vehicle, waving to supporters, when shots were fired at her. The image below was taken by Moore “one second” before she was hit by the fatal shot. Here is a photo-essay with his voice over: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/world/20071227_BHUTTO_FEATURE/index.html
4. Here is a video that supposedly shows the killer of Bhutto on screen with a pistol.
5. A photo of Benazir Butto’s husband Asif ali Zardari (center), and her son Bilawal Zardari (left), at the burial ceremony.
6. Some images immediately preceding and after the shots sent by Teeth Maestro. The commentary is by the photographer (and not TM). click on images to make them larger.
7. Here is the destruction so far in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s killing
- 173 bank torched completely
- 26 bank damaged
- 158 office torched and burnt completely
- 23 office damaged
- 24 petrol pump burnt
- 2 petrol pump damaged
- 370 cars completely burnt
- 61 cars damaged
- 72 trains coaches torched completely
- 18 railway station burnt completely
- 4 station damaged
- 765 shops burnt completely
- 19 offices/shops damaged partially
- 38 people killed
- 53 people injured
8. A photo-collage/video tribute to Benazir Bhutto
9. Another image showing a man with a gun near Bhutto’s car (Source: Dawn News)
10. Another new video that clearly shows Bhutto being shot and hit. Now the government version of her cause of death is starting to look really strange.