Pakistan Burning: Bhutto's body flies home

The streets of Islamabad this morning – chilly, beautiful, brittle and above all silent – stand in marked contrast to the flames and smoke that engulfed Rawalpindi last night, all along the Murree Road, spreading outward from Rawalpindi General Hospital. There, at 6:16 pm yesterday evening, Mohatarama Benazir Bhutto, the Chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party, died after being shot outside a rally in Liaqat Bagh. The shooting was accompanied by a suicide bombing that killed more than a dozen.

The news spread quickly through the cable networks last night: first the news of the bombing somewhere in ‘Pindi, then news of Benazir injured, then finally the news that she had ‘expired’. Tires were burning along the broad new highways connecting Rawalpindi to Islamabad by 7:30. By 8 pm, shops were shut all over the twin cities, and more than a few establishments had been torched. The violence in other cities – Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi – has been worse. Video coverage alternates between archived footage of Bhutto’s speeches and charred banks and businesses all over the country. Sindh, the PPP stronghold, is tipping into a state of sustained conflict as activists are attacking government offices and the army has recently been given orders to shoot protesters on sight. We all wait with baited breath for Bhutto’s body to be laid down after Friday prayers alongside a father and two brothers – hanged, poisoned and shot – at the family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bux, near Larkana. Following the burial, the real response of Pakistan’s most powerful party will begin.

There are, and always have been, two different sides to the Bhutto clan and the Pakistan People’s Party. The first is typical to the politics of the Pakistani state, one of the most cynical and ruthless of any in the country. Corruption, misuse of power, reliance on foreign backers, institutional impotence and near universal dissatisfaction accompanied the Bhutto governments in the 1990s, just as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s actions to maintain power smothered the very progressive alliance that brought him to power. And Bhutto’s re-entry to the country from exile was made possible by a US-brokered deal with Gen. Musharraf, involving extra-electoral power-sharing that would put a democratic glove on a military fist and provide greater legitimacy to Pakistan’s involvement in the War on Terror.

Given this disappointing record, it’s hard to see Benazir as a symbol for democratic moderation and justice. But Bhutto – the Bhutto name and the Party behind which t stands -- is a symbol for millions of ordinary Pakistanis: day labourers, farmers, ex-students and the real ground-down in this country, those who were enflamed by ZA Bhutto’s cries of Roti, Kupre aur Makan (bread, clothes and shelter). For them, a flame has been snuffed out, hope has been crushed, and there is anger beyond imagining. We will see how this anger manifests itself in the coming days.

The dust is far from settled, we are still looking through a glass, darkly. There are all sorts of questions that need answers, about responsibility, about elections, about the incompetence or collusion of the military establishment. But when Benazir Bhutto is laid to rest, Pakistani society will need to come to grips with the lack of the vision – of social justice – that was upheld however shoddily by the Bhutto name and the PPP. It needs to be addressed.

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Comments

thanks for writing this

thanks for writing this kawaa.

[...] via pass the roti

[...] via pass the roti Given this disappointing record, it’s hard to see Benazir as a symbol for democratic moderation and justice. But Bhutto – the Bhutto name and the Party behind which t stands — is a symbol for millions of ordinary Pakistanis: day labourers, farmers, ex-students and the real ground-down in this country, those who were enflamed by ZA Bhutto’s cries of Roti, Kupre aur Makan (bread, clothes and shelter). For them, a flame has been snuffed out, hope has been crushed, and there is anger beyond imagining. We will see how this anger manifests itself in the coming days. [...]

If you ever want to avoid

If you ever want to avoid suspicion for murder in a suicide bombing / shooting, don't say the person died when they hit their head on the occasion. Even if it's true. What's the point? No one will believe you.

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