Thursday, December 27, 2007

On Benzir Bhutto’s Assassination

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination is undeniably a cause for worry for the West. Our tenuous partnership with Pakistan--in political partnership that acknowledges the reality of a Pakistani populace that is in large part opposed to their country’s ties with the West--is complicated by Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and its practical importance in the fight against al Qaeda. Precisely what the result of the assassination will be is pure speculation at this point.

Will it kill off democracy? WIll it galvanize fragmented opposition groups into one meaningful opposition voice for change? Most people seem to be fearing the former; Arab News is calling for the latter.

Benazir has become a martyr for the cause of peaceful, representative politics. She has died not for one political faction, but for all of Pakistan. Thus every decent Pakistani, regardless of their politics, must mourn her passing and vow to avenge her, purely by maintaining the values she held dear.

A clearly shaken Nawaz Sharif, her bitter political rival, said last night to PPP supporters: “I assure you, I will fight your war from now on”. This was possibly one of the finest responses he could have formed to the tragedy. His own rally yesterday in Islamabad had been fired on and 12 supporters had been killed. Whoever was behind this other attack, the raw truth is that in a single day, both leading opposition politicians have been attacked. The target was Pakistan, its future.

Pakistan faced challenges enough already without the impact of yesterday’s slaughter. The political horizon which was already hazy may now seem positively murky. This is precisely what the people who planned this crime will have wanted.

Therefore, once the immediate shock of Benazir’s murder has sunk in, her supporters must recognize that this was a wicked blow aimed against Pakistan itself, not simply at the PPP. Now is the time for narrow self-interest to be put aside. Assuming that the PPP can choose a new leader quickly, next month’s elections should very probably go ahead as planned, or at worse be only very slightly delayed.

Finding the group responsible for the attacks is important, but I hope that the people of Pakistan realize that what is more important is asserting the rights of a civilian populace to define their own government. Demanding that right to self-determination is vital to combating the terrorists who would bully these people into accepting a slave’s chains.

My prayer for the people of Pakistan would be that this brutal murder would bring them together in demanding a voice in their government and in combating the terrorists and murderers who are our common enemies.


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