Pakistan (Country threat level – 5): On 30 December 2007 the son of assassinated former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was chosen to lead the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The 19-year old Bilawal Bhutto will reportedly be the party’s co-chair along with his father. The PPP has also announced that it will take part in parliamentary elections currently scheduled to take place on 8 January 2008. However, Pakistani authorities are considering delaying the elections. A decision regarding the possible postponement was expected on 31 December but may be delayed as well due to the recent violence that has occurred throughout the country following Bhutto’s assassination.
Authorities have begun assessing damage in many provinces, where rioting and violent demonstrations have taken place in recent days. Meanwhile, an uneasy calm and relative normalcy returned to Pakistan on 31 December. Thousands of security personnel remain deployed throughout the country amid concerns of potential further outbreaks of violence. There have been no reports thus far of major airport operations disruptions; however, unconfirmed reports state that some facilities have experienced minor delays. Many offices reopened on 31 December, although some international organizations remain closed. Additionally, the government has ordered all educational institutions to remain closed until 3 January. Most undamaged gas stations have reopened, although reports indicate that many have long wait times for refueling. Officials stated that more than 170 train coaches, 18 railway stations, 170 banking facilities, 158 government offices, 26 gas stations and 370 vehicles were destroyed in the rioting and unrest that erupted on 27 December. Additionally, more than 760 businesses were looted or damaged. More than 300 people have been arrested in connection with the violence and more than 40 people were killed.
ASI Comment: Domestic travel disruptions are expected to continue in the short-term, including in major cities such as Karachi and Islamabad. Many roads are littered with rubble and debris. The potential for further political violence remains, especially if the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announces a postponement of the 8 January elections. The situation remains extremely tense and highly unpredictable. Travelers should avoid any unnecessary travel in Pakistan.