Vinod Sharma, in the Hindustan Times:
Pakistan without Benazir is like India without Indira. The comparison isnâ€™t out of place. In an interview some years ago to a house journal of the London School of Economics, she named three role models â€” father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Indira Gandhi and the Joan of Arc.
It remains to be seen whether Pakistanâ€™s best known dynasty would, like the Gandhi family, have a scion goaded into public life. For the present however, the January 8 elections have become purposeless. To the many tragic similarities between the Bhuttos and the Gandhis, one more has got added. Like Benazir, Rajiv Gandhi too was killed by a suicide bomber while campaigning for his party in 1991.
And on the likely motives for the killing:
As a woman in politics, Benazir was forever the target of the Islamic fringe. What made her a greater anathema was her proximity to the US. Former state department official Richard Armitage saw perhaps the writing on the wall when he cautioned Washington against doing anything that made Benazir look like â€œAmericaâ€™s girl.â€
Without my intending to point any fingers–I certainly do not know who did this–I find even more chillingly compelling the remarks by Amit Baruah, also in the HT:
The foot soldiers of Pakistan’s state-spawned Bhindranwales1 have snuffed out the life of Benazir Bhutto. The spectre of extremism, haunting Pakistan since it began the jihad against the Soviet Union in 1980, has taken away the leader of the only real political party in the country. …
Far from turning Pakistan away from the politics of Islamist extremism, General Musharraf’s policies of “enlightened moderation”, a case of one step forward two steps back, have firmly entrenched the jihadis in the country’s politics.
Yes, Musharraf arrested many Al Qaeda men at the behest of the US after 9/11. But his men didn’t have their hearts in the job. They didn’t believe in it.
…Benazir was more dangerous to the jihadis than Musharraf. She was a political leader who could fight the battle of ideas, who could tell people why the jihadis were not their friends. That’s why she had to be killed.
It’s possible that the days ahead will be full of disaster and turmoil for Pakistan. The meaningless elections of January 8 may be cancelled; the army may again say that it needs more powers to maintain law and order and state stability. But more of the same is not going to help.
Indeed, the scheduled elections do look “purposeless” and “meaningless” now.
Outside of Pakistan, the US government is one of biggest losers here. It has placed almost all its bets on General Musharraf getting himself elected2 “civilian” president (mission accomplished3), and on Bhutto becoming the face of “democratized” Pakistan. So much for the second part of the plan.
- The term is a reference to a Punjabi militant killed in 1984. [↩]
- By an electoral college made up of the national and state assemblies that were elected under dubious elections about three year’s into Musharraf’s military government, in 2002. [↩]
- With a little help from the “emergency” firing of supreme court justices who somehow concluded that their job was to uphold the constitution rather than the Bush-Musharraf plan. [↩]