News vendors went from street to street yesterday in Islamabad, selling newspapers with the latest details on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and sleepless Pakistanis stayed glued to their TVs, watching news channels all night long to find out what would happen next.
As they mourn and try to recover from the shock of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistanis are trying to come to terms with the security failure that allowed such a carefully coordinated shooting-suicide bombing to take place, and asking themselves if it was, indeed, a failure –or a conspiracy.
Neither answer is a good one. Even if there was no government-approved conspiracy to eliminate her, the fact remains that Bhutto was presumably being protected by the tightest security possible. Pakistanis ask themselves if someone of her stature is so vulnerable, how can a common person be safe in their home?
The feeling of insecurity and uncertainty combines with the general atmosphere of sadness and mourning. Bhutto’s supporters and even those who would not have voted for her are expressing their sympathy for her and her family.
The sadness is quickly transforming into anger. The furious fringe elements of Bhutto supporters are expressing themselves by setting fire to property in various cities in Pakistan.
They are a tiny minority – the general population is remaining civil. But they want answers. Pakistanis are demanding an investigation and must be provided with real results fast. They want the government to identify and capture the assassination’s authors soon. Whether the attack was truly a “purely” terrorist attack or some form of an inside job, it happened on Musharraf’s watch and the responsibility falls on his shoulders.
The widespread feeling on the street is that Musharraf should resign, regardless of whether his government played any role in Bhutto’s death. It would stabilize the situation if he let the election take place under a neutral caretaker government. If Musharraf refuses and remains in power, citizens will continue to blame him for this incident.
The army’s reputation, already damaged by now, will degrade even further.
As the United States and the rest of the world debate how to “handle” Pakistan following this terrible event, Pakistanis are calling on the rest of the world to let Pakistanis resolve their crisis by themselves, and let them decide what they want for their country in as democratic a fashion as is possible under the circumstances.
That’s the only way the future of Pakistan can be decided once and for all.
Ghalia Aymen is Pakistan correspondent for Pajamas Media.