January Issue 2008

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 16 years ago

When will people in the corridors of power learn to exercise caution and restraint when dealing with sensitive, and potentially explosive, situations?

The matter of Ms Bhutto’s assassination needed to be handled with utmost care, but, alas, that was not the case.

From the president (who held Ms Bhutto responsible for her own death because she stuck her neck out of theLand Cruiser), to the caretaker interior minister (who remarked that BB had been killed by a suicide bomber), to the interior secretary (who concluded that her death was a consequence of her hitting her head against the metal lever of her sunroof) — everyone thought it fit to comment, and with authority, on the cause of Ms Bhutto’s death. This, even while evidence was still being collected and the investigation had not even begun in earnest.

Where in the world are government officials, sitting in the cool environs of their offices, authorised to play investigator, judge and juror?

Bhutto’s death brought a lot of unsavoury things to the fore, besides the government’s pathetic attempts to cover up the lapse in security.

The tragic incident was used by criminal elements to indulge in horrific and calculated acts of loot, arson and plunder, especially in Sindh. And what was inexplicable was the mysterious disappearance of law enforcement agencies from the scenes of the crimes. Frantic calls for help while banks were being looted, houses were being broken into, and petrol pumps and factories were being ransacked and torched remained answered.

Are law enforcement agencies only meant to provide a security cover for the VIPs and VVIPs? If factories, banks and even private citizens are expected to fend for themselves in times of distress, why should they be expected to cough up for the upkeep of what is essentially proving to be a white elephant.

The country, and especially Sindh, is still reeling from the aftermath of BB’s assassination. The unity of the federation is in danger as nationalist slogans are being raised. In a charged atmosphere such as this, what is extremely disconcerting is that certain remnants of the last government who still wield clout are trying to play politics over Ms Bhutto’s dead body. They are laying the blame for the violence and destruction entirely at the PPP’s doorstep and, what’s more, registering cases against party activists. This, ostensibly, to blunt the sympathy wave that they suspect will work to the PPP’s advantage in the February 18 elections.

The battle of words between the PML-Q and the PPP has already begun, with the PPP co-chairperson calling them the “qatil” League and the king’s party returning the compliment by branding Zardari a “murderer.”

BB’s assassination should have had a sobering effect on the stakeholders in the murky world of Pakistani politics. But obviously they have not learnt any lessons from this grave tragedy, other than to trade accusations and counter-accusations.

This is the moment to stop and reflect — and move forward with a sense of responsibility. Pakistan’s image has taken a severe beating, and if we have an iota of shame, we will steer our political ship on the right course purposefully and emerge from this trying period with our dignity and our national pride intact.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.