Beena Sawar: Supporters despair about fate of democratization
BEENA SARWAR, ON PHONE FROM LAHORE, PAKISTAN: Well, I’m afraid the mood in Pakistan right now in general is that of extreme grief and extreme devastation, and also hopelessness. And even Benazir’s political rival, Nawaz Sharif, he appeared on television recently, talking to some TV panel, looking quite devastated himself. And he told her it was really very tragic, and he blamed the government for not providing enough security to her. And I think for many people this has taken away the last hope of transition towards democratic politics. Everybody that I’ve spoken to who work as drivers, the guy who works for my family in Karachi, he called me up really, really upset. And he said that the shops had all been shut down and people were attacking anything they could find. And Sindh, which is Benazir’s home province, is the place where there’s been the greatest violence. And so far five people have died in Karachi, and I believe another two have died in Lahore, in violence, like, you know, gunfire and people burning down billboards and attacking police stations and police cars. And, I mean, they evacuated two trains and set the Bogies on fire. I mean, that’s the kind of rage that there is. There is no leadership; we don’t see anybody sort of emerging to calm down the situation and turn the grief into strength or to move forward at this point. I think this is too much shock. We have a military-dominated politics, and the military is very heavily entrenched in all areas of politics and economy in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto had signed the Charter of Democracy to push the military out of politics. But Nawaz Sharif, I mean, he definitely, definitely has a following. Nawaz Sharif has now announced a boycott of the elections. If they had contested it and if the elections had been held, the two parties together would have been an electoral alliance, even though they’d been rivals, together along with some of the other parties. That means they would have had enough seats, it is possible, to challenge the military establishment, the status quo. Right now I think it’s doubtful that the polls will be held. It seems pretty unlikely. Pervez Musharraf, or president, as he’s sort of got himself to be declared, has announced a three-day mourning with the Pakistani flag being flown at half-mast, and that’s a step that’s obviously meant to placate the political opposition. I don’t think people are going to buy into that. People do hold him responsible, if not directly, then by negligence.
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