Friday, December 28, 2007

The Mourning After

The country is in a three day mourning period with flags at half-mast and the roads completely empty. If you're from Karachi, you simply cannot recognize the lack of traffic - it's like that scene in Vanilla Sky when Tom Cruise ends up in Times Square with no soul in sight. There have been a number of flashes of protest/anger/rioting/tire-burning/vandalism though.

The picture of Benazir's killing is pretty clear. Benazir was in the back of a four-wheeler and stood up on the seat to wave at supporters through the sun-roof as she was leaving Liaquat Bagh. She was shot in the neck and chest, forcing her to get back in the car where she put her head into someone else's lap, bleeding profusely. As the car tried to make an escape from the premises a few seconds later, a suicide bomber with up to 4kg (about 9 pounds) of explosives blew himself up. Benazir died of her injuries on the way to hospital and will be buried later today in her hometown of Larkana in interior Sindh.

The blame game has already begun, with many questioning Benazir's security arrangements. It's unclear to me what role greater security could have played given that Benazir was basically a sitting duck: standing on a seat of a car, waving through the sun-roof, in a slow-moving vehicle through throngs of supporters in a constrained space - I mean, that's an assassin's dream, isn't it? Of course, I am not ruling out the culpability of the establishment or government - I am only ruling out the potential of greater security to have obviated the assassination.

It's also worth mentioning that I have about as much confidence in a real and thorough investigation as I do in Imran Farhat's catching ability (i.e. not very much). First of all, television pictures yesterday showed the police using those really powerful water pipes to clean the area of all the blood and body parts. I don't know about their intentions, but they definitely guaranteed the complete absence of any forensic evidence. Second, it is now been twenty years since that Zia fellow suddenly had his plane explode in thin air, and no one - I mean no one - has any idea of what the hell happened. If a sitting President - and Army General - can have his plane explode without any explanation, what chance does a mere opposition leader have? I'll be willing to wager that we will never know what happened on December 27, 2007, notwithstanding al-Qaeda's claims.

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