Another One Bites The Dust

Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, head of the Pakistan People’s Party, and the most credible challenger to the rule of Pakistan’s current military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, was assassinated yesterday in Rawalpindi, outside the capital city of Islamabad.

The only woman ever to lead a majority Muslim nation was attacked as she was leaving a rally, where she had addressed a throng of supporters just days prior to parliamentary elections scheduled for January 8, 2008. She apparently died as a result of a skull fracture sustained in an explosion the suspected assassin detonated, killing himself and more than 20 others.

The news of Ms. Bhutto’s death reverberated across the globe, prompting expressions of grief, sadness, joy, fear, anger, and consternation, owing to Pakistan’s critical position in the unsteady matrix of competing geopolitical forces.

Having led Pakistan to mixed reviews from 1988 – 1990 and again from 1993 – 1996, she went into exile with the ascent to power of Mr. Musharraf through a military coup in 1999, and had only returned in October of this year to lead the parliamentary efforts of what is widely regarded as the country’s most moderate and largely secular political faction.

Her murder casts a pall of doubt and uncertainty over the direction of a nuclear power to which the United States pledged $3 billion in military and economic assistance in 2005.

Middle East scholar Juan Cole has the best analysis I have read so far on the implications of this tragic event. His blog is here and his article wondering whether President Bush has a “Plan B” for Pakistan is here.

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