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December 28, 2007
Pakistan in Chaos as Bhutto Interred
It's worse than I thought. According to the Daily Mail, 23 have already died in riots across the country as police shoot into crowds:
While the woman who had been tipped as Pakistan's next leader was being buried, her supporters vented their anger by ransacking banks, waging shootouts with police and burning railway stations in scenes of chaos which threatened to plunge the country into deep turmoil less than two weeks before a crucial election. It was worse elsewhere:
Security forces were given permission to shoot rioters on sight.
The unrest, which saw some of Pakistan's worst political disturbances in years, was most severe in Sindh, Ms Bhutto's home province and her main base of support. All but one of the dead were killed there.
"We're anticipating the situation might get worse after the funeral," Sindh interior minister Akhtar Zaman said.
Across Sindh hundreds of cars, trucks and buses smouldered while crowds of men set up road blocks and chanted slogans against President Pervez Musharraf. With former Prime Minister Sharif' boycotting the elections and Bhutto's Pakistani People's Party leaderless and observing 40 days of mourning, it would seem unlikely that the elections could go forward. The only faction such a move would benefit would be the religious parties - something even Musharraf must realize would be akin to total disaster.
About 7,000 people in the central city of Multan ransacked seven banks and a fuel station and in the capital, Islamabad, about 100 protesters burned tyres in a commercial quarter of the city.
Fears were prompted that the election on 8 January would be put off, heightened by the decision of the other main opposition leader, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, to boycott the poll. However, the caretaker Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro said the government had no immediate plan to postpone parliamentary elections.
Pakistan is tipping toward the edge of the abyss and it unclear at this moment how the country can pull back and right itself.
If things do get much worse, I believe the military would have little choice but to take over again in order to at least clear the streets. What that would mean for the future of democracy in Pakistan is anyone's guess.