For many Americans, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto only highlighted the instability of another country in the Middle East. But for GW’s Pakistani students, the situation hit much closer to home.
Bhutto, the prominent opposition leader and two-time prime minister of Pakistan, died during a political rally on Dec. 27, igniting riots in the country and sparking international criticism of the government’s subsequent investigation.
Behram Riar, who returned to his home in Islamabad, Pakistan, for winter break, said “there is still an aura of unrest and tension in the air.”
“There is no predicting what will happen next,” Riar said. “The assassination of Benazir Bhutto symbolized the death of democracy in Pakistan … We lost a great democratic leader who fought for what she believed in until her last days.”
For Riar, the future of Pakistan is still in the air. Riar said he looked to Bhutto and her Pakistani People’s Party to help bring Pakistan out of the chaos. Now he is now unsure is the PPP can regroup.
“Whether (the PPP) can be brought back by her son or husband, only time will tell,” he said. “These have been very dark and trying days for my country and I pray to God Pakistan will have a brighter future.”
Sophomore Ahmed Muhammad spent vacation in Sindh, a province of Karachi, and said violence was rampant in his area.
“People were not safe on the streets,” he said. “All gas stations and grocery stores remained closed, and some people had nowhere to buy food.”
Muhammad said he became stranded at a friend’s house because “it was not safe to be out . Everyone was just unleashing their anger and frustration on the city.”
Sophomore Sassi Riar, president of the Pakistan Student Association at GW, expressed his sadness for the spirit of the Pakistani people following Bhutto’s assassination.
“People have become pessimistic . especially the youth of Pakistan,” he said.
Pakistani students said there is dissatisfaction with the current political structure of Pakistan, especially the rule of President Pervez Musharraf.
“Many Pakistanis do not like how he has aligned himself with the United States,” said senior Rehan Hussain, “as they think he is their puppet and that he is putting the Pakistani people second.”
Though many have suggested that the Pakistani government’s claims that extremist groups were responsible for the assassination are contrived, not all students were quick to pass judgment.
“I wouldn’t blame (Pakistani President Pervez) Musharraf without any concrete proof,” said Eman Abbas, a junior.
Karl F. Inderfurth, an international affairs professor and former assistant secretary of state for South Asia, pointed to the postponed Feb. 18 elections as hope for progress in Pakistan.
Inderfurth said, “It can only be hoped that the elections . will be a major step forward.”