ISLAMABAD, Sept 24: A countrywide power outage and reports of President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s unscheduled medical check-up in Texas sparked unusual rumours all over the country about a change of the guard in the capital on Sunday.
Newspaper offices were deluged with calls by concerned people who said they had heard on the grapevine that there had been a putsch in Islamabad following reports that the president had suffered a heart attack during his visit to the United States.
Callers from Quetta said jubilant crowds poured on to the streets and fired into the air to celebrate the government’s removal.
Paying a visit to a local Sunday bazaar, a visibly chagrined Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told a reporter that his question about a change of government did not warrant an answer.
“Why do you ask about something that hasn’t occurred at all?” said the prime minister in an effort to lay the rumour at rest.
The prime minister said that he was actually concerned about the countrywide power breakdown.
“I have spoken to the chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority who assured me that the country’s power supply would be restored by late Sunday night,” he said.
Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem told a hurriedly-called press conference that a technical fault had sent Wapda’s electricity network reeling.
While there were few takers for the government’s explanation about the reason of the power outage, some believed that an act of sabotage was responsible for the electricity breakdown throughout the country.
Unconvinced cynics also feared that an unreported deterioration in President Musharraf’s health allowed a rumour about the change of government to fast gain ground.
Instead of issuing a direct denial, the government released the latest footage of the president’s visit to the United States, showing Gen Musharraf in fine fettle.
Government officials said people heaved a sigh of relief when they saw that the president was not unwell.
But opposition leaders said that they were certain that reports of the change of government were greeted not by alarm but a sense of relief by the masses.