DEMISE OF A GREAT POLITICIAN

BENAZIR BHUTTO 1953 - 2007

MARIAM NASIR
Manager Research, PAGE
Jan 07 - 13, 2008

FIRST WOMAN PRIME MINISTER OF MUSLIM STATES OF THE WORLD

Immediately after addressing an election rally an assassin's bullet killed Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Online polls all over the world out rightly claimed it as one of the biggest and foremost significant event of 2007. Exiled leader Bhutto was hailed as the all-important figure in that return to a parliamentary process. She waited eight years to go back to revive Pakistan's democratic process.

Her father, Pakistan's first popularly-elected leader, was executed by a military dictator two years after he was overthrown in a coup. The jail where he was hanged was torn down when Benazir became prime minister, and turned into a park. What made her come to the same place and unfortunately breathe her last as she was killed about two kilometres away from the spot where her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979.

How Benazir Bhutto was assassinated has been a topic of debate and utter confusion. As per government, Benazir was killed because she hit the sun roof of her SUV while trying to rush back into the vehicle, however as per PPP party members, there were direct bullet shots taken at the neck and head from very close range, which was followed by a suicide blast near the vehicle.

With this event, there were a series of events which rocked almost all and sundry cities of Pakistan.

Rioters burned or damaged 947 vehicles, 31 petrol stations, 38 people, 176 banks, 72 train cars, 25 railway stations, six trains, eight locomotives, 16 bridges,18 level crossings besides the uprooting of railway track at six places.

At least 100 prisoners were sprung from jails.

Business remained closed for 3-days on account of mourning.

Prices of essential and daily commodities touched sky highs.

So much was the gravity of this event that world stock and commodity markets plunged and oil and gold prices surged. Pakistani stocks tumbled by more than 700 points - one of its biggest ever single day fall on 31st December, as an uncertain political outlook and violence after the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto hit investor sentiment and triggered a selling spree.

Pakistan Peoples Party took major decision on the back drop of this event. The crucial decisions were made at a closed-door meeting of the PPP's central executive committee where the will of the slain opposition leader, presciently prepared by her two days before her return to the country on Oct 18, was read out by Bilawal Bhutto and endorsed by top party leaders. The new look party leadership reiterated their commitment to the cause and principles of Benazir Bhutto and pledged to participate in the elections to be conducted on January 8th 2008. The party also unveiled Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as the new Chairman of the party. But until he becomes eligible to contest for elections Asif Ali Zardari meanwhile will be Co-Chairman and since Mr Zardari is not contesting the Jan 8 polls, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, would be their candidate for prime minister.

REPERCUSSIONS

INFLATION: Three day mourning which continued for even more days resulted in closure of all the major markets and shopping centers. Food stuff was not available to the common people and if somehow shops opened they sold the eatables at a very high rate ensuring further addition to the rising inflation which in the four months of current fiscal year is hovering around 7.6%.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT: For the past couple of years, Pakistan has lured growing amounts of foreign cash - the Karachi stock market is up more than 40 percent year-to-date, making it count in Asia's top performing index. But this event is the worst possible scenario for foreign investment. The current situation is likely to delay any immediate investment deals in Pakistan, at least until after the elections, assuming they are held.

Pakistan Credit Ratings May Be Lowered: Standard & Poor's said a further weakening of Pakistan's institutions, in conjunction with rising levels of violence and disorder, and the postponement of the January 8 elections, would lead to a rating downgrade.

Oil Companies Declared Force Majeure: The Pakistan State Oil has declared force majeure in the wake of riots, showing its unavailability to transport diesel and other petroleum products from Karachi to upcountry. Similar situation was also faced by other private oil marketing companies on the back drop of this event..

CLAIMS ON INSURANCE AND BANK'S: Pakistan's banking sector has attracted foreign interest following a series of reforms and good performances that have led to rapid expansion and increasing income for local banks. But because of this event many banks which faced robberies and looting of cash from their branches and electronic valets will face default. While on the other hand insurance companies would have to grapple with this situation as many factories, vehicles and insurable goods were plundered during this three day event.

Unconditionally the International community has reiterated full faith in Presidency of current regime and has informed President Musharraf to keep the pace of current political reforms and conduct the elections as per schedule. The international community has also demanded a complete probe into the death of former Premier. The situation doesn't seem favorable until the elections are held and till that time happenings of any unfavorable event cannot be ruled out.