Assassination of Bhutto in Pakistan: A Day of National Tragedy
December 27, 2007
Author: Haroon Ullah, Former Research Fellow, The Dubai Initiative
A few hours ago, Pakistan Peoples Party leader and former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by a suicide bomber at an election rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Bhutto and over dozen people have died in the deadly attack, which took place a few kilometers from Rawalpindi General Hospital. The major tragedy has spun Pakistan onto the brink of more chaos as mourning and instant rallies have sprung up in major cities, with violence and shooting reported in many areas. Bhutto's triumphant return to Pakistan and dramatic rise back in Pakistani politics had vaulted her to one of the top positions in the political landscape. Many had observed that Bhutto as the leading candidate to become the new Prime Minister and forming the future coalition in the National Assembly. Bhutto had recently noted the dangers of participating in election rallies, having been targeted in her first rally in Karachi. Bhutto instead put her faith in God and the 'awam' (people) and courageously moved forward because of her belief in participating in the democratic process and rallying the opposition against the current government. Meeting earlier in the morning with Afghanistan President Karzai, Bhutto understood that people might be after her, but was passionate about the burgeoning mass movement in Pakistan.
The Bhutto family is perhaps the most well-known political family in Pakistan, akin to the Kennedy family in the United States -- enduring much tragedy with the hanging of Benazir's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Prime Minister and founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party, and the assassination of her two brothers. Bhutto hailed from Harvard, graduating in 1973, and over the years had developed a wide ranging political network in Pakistan and abroad (U.S and Britain) during her time as Prime Minster as well as during her political exile. The Pakistan Peoples Party and Bhutto had organized the most sophisticated political machinery in Pakistan and had embarked on an ambitious and impressive election lead up of public rallies and visits to major cities.
This day of mourning throws Pakistan into a vicious cycle of instability, unrest and potential violence. Riots are ensuing in Pakistan, with instant rallies and people throwing stones at police. Emotions are running high, and allegations are being made at who should held responsible for the suicide attack. It is unclear whether Pakistan will move forward with the January elections, with the high possibility of a new martial law and state of emergency. Pakistan Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif was seen at the hospital and other leaders of opposition parties have issued remarks of mourning. President Musharraf is currently in an emergency cabinet meeting deciding which action to take in response to the national tragedy.
The Pakistan Peoples Party is left without its national icon and an almost impossible massive vacuum to fill. Bhutto has become a martyr for many Pakistani people, giving her life for the idea of a democratic process in Pakistan. This is one of the saddest days in Pakistan history, only a few days after the remembrance day of Quaid-e-Azam, the great independence leader of Pakistan.
For more information about this publication please contact the Project on India and the Subcontinent Events Coordinator.
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