Zahra Shahid Hussain: Pakistani Politician Murdered to Intimidate Karachi


Zahra Shahid Hussain thought she was being robbed before the gunmen killed her with a single shot to the chin outside her home. She is a prominent Pakistani politician and founding member of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) party. Many are calling it an act of intimidation by the rival Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party ahead of re-polling in Karachi on Sunday.

And it may have worked.

The lines at the polling stations a week ago when Pakistanis first went to the polls were averaging 3-4 hours because of the almost 60% turnout. Today was a different story. Analysts found voter turnout hovered around 10-35% depending on the locations. Most of the voters were PTI supporters as MQM and PPP have boycotted the re-elections.

MQM was also incidentally blamed for the vote-rigging in last week's results.

Imran Khan, the party's chairman took to Twitter immediately after Hussain's murder and blamed it on the MQM and its leader Altaf Hussain:

Khan's last tweet was encouraging voters to still come out in Karachi and vote. Pakistanis have been beat down with consistent violence throughout this election cycle — the first transition between democratically elected governments in Pakistan since its founding. Until now the military has always manipulated the democratic process and installed whoever they support.

Given those circumstances Pakistanis should be proud for moving towards a more true democracy but the price they have paid for it is covered in blood. It is further complicated by the fact that the political parties themselves create the situations for chaos and violence. For example, the MQM has responded to the murder with a call for "nationwide and international" protests against Imran Khan.

Pakistani parties are still stoking emotional flames in the public instead of rallying together as the representatives of the political process.

What the political powers that be fail to recognize is that people are clearly tired of these types of fear-mongering. “We want a change — a real change in our country because we are fed up with the current political set up, which is just disappointing,” housewife Arifa Aslam told AFP as she waited in a long queue Sunday to cast her vote.

Khan and the PTI were able to rally the youth in Pakistan on an explicit message of change which propelled the barely 2-year old party to national prominence. It is to be seen whether the political spectrum continues to rely on violence and intimidation or whether the MQM and other similarly antagonistic parties will be voted out by the public. 

One way or another, Pakistan has a lot of soul searching to do.