GTA resident was ‘lucky’ to get back to Toronto



DAVID COOPER/torstar news service


Abdul Aziz, left, Farukh Qazi and Tasleem Riaz, seated, monitor events back home in Pakistan.

From the moment he arrived in Pakistan, Uzman Shafique knew something was different.

The Scarborough entrepreneur got robbed twice outside his parents’ house in Sialkot, a city northwest of Lahore — a first despite twice-yearly visits to the area. Neighbours seemed agitated.

His own relatives were reluctant to leave the house, paying others to shop for groceries.

When word got around that Pakistan’s president had something big up his sleeve, Shafique didn’t wait to see the outcome.

He booked the first flight back to Toronto, arriving late Thursday, to the relief of his wife and two young children.

Two days later, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, plunging the country into even greater chaos.

"I was scared there," said Shafique, 30, grateful for his narrow escape.

"I was lucky to get out."

The crackdown has alarmed Pakistani residents and their relatives abroad.

Deprived of local media sources, many say they feel helpless, anxious and confused.

Others wonder how these developments will effect the elections slated for January.

"Everyone is frustrated and upset," said Farukh Qazi, chair of the Asian Communities Council of Canada, which runs a Pakistani community centre on Gerrard Street East.