There is very sad news from Pakistan today. Former prime minister and present opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated:
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, Dec. 27 — Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday at a political rally, two months after she returned from eight years of exile to attempt a political comeback, officials said.
Bhutto, 54, was shot at close range as she was leaving the rally in this garrison city south of Islamabad, aides said. Immediately after the shooting, a suicide bomber detonated explosives near Bhutto’s car, killing at least 15 other people.
Bhutto was rushed to a hospital with extensive wounds to her torso, her supporters said. Shortly after she arrived at the hospital, an official came out of the building and told a crowd of supporters Bhutto was dead.
I remember rather vividly the enormous amount of press attention Ms. Bhutto received here in the States when her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, became prime minister of Pakistan while she was a student at Radcliffe. She was an extremely lovely young woman, articulate beyond her years, and seemed to represent in her person Pakistan’s future.
Politics is an extremely tough business in Pakistan and Pakistan Policy Blog reminds us of just how tough:
Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in Rawalpindi on October 16, 1951. Bhutto’s father was also hung in Rawalpindi in 1979.
Ms. Bhutto joins the list of assassinated family members: her brother Shahnawaz died from poisoning in France in 1985 and her other brother Murtaza was shot to death by police at close range in 1996.
What are the implications of the assassination? Ali Eteraz suggests:
Its very important to see what Musharraf does. If he does not arrest any terrorist sympathizers in the military, that’s a problem. Musharraf did kill Akbar Bugti, the Balochi leader, a few years ago.
It’s very difficult maybe impossible to stop a determined suicide bomber but that’s only half the story. The security surrounding Ms. Bhutto was substantial and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some sort of conspiracy possibly including her own security guards, the Pakistani military, or the local constabulary was involved. Of course, we may never know.
Pat Lang’s commentary is trenchant:
Someone killed her. Is anyone surprised? As I said, the country is inherently like this. It was a mistake. Now we know what the odds worked out to be. What will we see now? Will there be chaos in the streets? Will Musharraf put his militarized police and army into the streets to shoot rioters? What will we see?