Community split over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Muzna Siddiqi

Muzna Siddiqi reading about the aftermath of Bhutto’s assassination.

Centennial College student Muzna Siddiqi was in Pakistan the day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

“In the streets it was pure chaos – as people were walking and cars were driving in all directions,” Siddiqi said.

Bhutto’s assassination caused political upheaval in Pakistan, and split the Pakistani community in Canada. While Siddiqi, a Torontonian visiting Pakistan, was upset by Bhutto’s death, other Pakistani Canadians, like Arsalan Ahmed, had a different response.

“The media coverage in the West sickened me to death,” said Ahmed. “They portrayed her as a saviour – as this wonderful woman. The simple fact is, she is not only wanted in multiple countries on charges of corruption, but has been indicted as well,” Ahmed said.

The majority of the Pakistani community, however, seemed to be distraught by Bhutto’s death.

Siddiqi was at a relatives’ house in a bad area when she heard the news. Panic took over the household and her driver attempted to move her to safer location. Although she was afraid, Siddiqi admits to feeling excited to be in midst of the tragedy.

“The whole city plunged into darkness,” said Siddiqi, a Journalism student studying in Toronto. “I wanted to roll down my window and take pictures.”

Siddiqi noticed the beginnings of the commotion as she was driven home. Stores immediately closed up for the day and people rushed to get to their homes. Lines of communication were destroyed as cell phone networks shut down.

“I was not able to get in contact with my family,” Siddiqi said. “Once we got home, I was told that my parents were extremely worried and wanted us to call them immediately.”

Meanwhile, Siddiqi’s parents sat in Toronto worried if their daughter was safe. As her parents watched the situation unfold in their Toronto home, they also questioned the fairness of the event’s media coverage.

Although Siddiqi thought Bhutto shouldn’t have been sticking her head out of her vehicle at the political rally, she certainly did not dislike Bhutto.

“She was the first female prime minister in Pakistan. And she stood for democracy,” Siddiqi said.

When Ahmed first heard the news, he was lying in bed in Toronto. He immediately grabbed his phone to call his family and make sure they were all right.

When he found out they were all okay, his attention shifted to his dislike for Bhutto and the West’s horrible portrayal of the aftermath of her death.

“People forget how utterly horrible and corrupt she was. [Pakistanis] would rather sit through Musharaf’s dictatorship than have her as a democratic alternative,” Ahmed said.

Since Ahmed lived through Bhutto’s regime, he had grown to know the “real Bhutto” and developed undeniably strong opinions of detestation toward her.

“The situation in Pakistan is far worse today, not because of a guy like Musharraf, but because of the West itself. The man . . . was doing good for the country and his military affiliation was keeping a lot of people [afloat],” Ahmed explained. But it seemed no one cared as long as it wasn’t done under the banner of democracy . . . so the West backed Bhutto, who has run the country into the ground in the 90s.”

Ahmed’s fury toward Bhutto and her regime go against popular opinion. His anger stems from when he lived in Pakistan and had to endure her so-called democratic nature.

Even though public opinion is divided on this issue, experts believe that Bhutto’s death did not solve any political problems in Pakistan.

Although Political science professor Kara Santokie, went to Oxford University, like Bhutto, her opinion doesn’t stem from personal like or dislike for her.

“In my opinion, her political assassination was not a fruitful way to solve an ongoing political dilemma,” Santokie said.

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Posted: Feb 2 2008 12:00 pm
Filed under: Features