ibnlive » World

Jan 02, 2008 at 12:47am IST

Regional divide threatens to blow Pakistan

Sindh: Bhutto's death and the violence that followed have exposed regional and social rifts within Pakistan like never before.

As Sharif Khan walks around his petrol pump and surveys his trucks that were burnt and looted by rioting mobs he says he has been bankrupted. "All of these were being paid for in installments, the earnings from running each truck feeds 50-60 families. We have nothing left to live on,” says Sharif Khan.

Khan shares the worries of many others. He says that none of the truck drivers had insurance with losses at the pump on the Sindh national highway totaling over 30 crores.

It is collateral damage of the worst kind and these trucks from Waziristan were set on fire in Sindh. As news of Benazir Bhutto's assassination spread, so did the fire. The fire revealed the internecine rivalries and regional rivalries that still exist in Pakistan and threaten to blow the country apart.

As a result, what should have been an outpouring of grief and anger, turned very quickly to arson and looting. The mobs targeted specific non-Sindhi communities such as the Punjabi shopkeepers, Mohajir businesses, and Pathan truckers.

"Why did they destroy my pump and leave the neighbour's alone,” asks Sharif Khan. "They called us terrorists. If the government doesn't help us, the people here may soon become terrorists. What’s the choice?,” asks Sharif.

What makes it worse is that they say the local police helped the mobs. The government issued cartridges, they said, were used to fire at them.

Amidst worries about the future are immediate concerns for food and fuel. Larkana's marketplace opened for a few hours after days of a shutdown and many came out to stock up on vegetables and meat.

Across the state and the country Pakistan is now counting the cost of the devastation. In just three days of rioting, according to official estimates:

770 shops were burnt

200 Banks gutted

160 government offices attacked

23 trains and over a thousand vehicles torched

The estimated total exceeding 20,000 crore Indian rupees

More than 26 pumps like Sharif Khan's amongst that tally

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