RIP Benazir Bhutto

by dday

I actually write quite a bit about Pakistan, usually with the headline "Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update." This is why.

Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide attack at a campaign rally that also killed at least 20 others, aides said.

Bhutto's supporters erupted in anger and grief after her death, attacking police and burning tires and election campaign posters in several cities. At the hospital where she died, some smashed glass and wailed, chanting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf.

The death of the charismatic 54-year-old former prime minister threw the campaign for the Jan. 8 parliamentary elections into chaos and created fears of mass protests and violence across the nuclear-armed nation, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.

I literally just woke up and don't know what the speculation is about who pulled off this attack, but just like in this country, the fallout will certainly tend toward autocracy. I don't expect there will be parliamentary elections now, or a return to normalcy with restoring independent media or the judiciary. I just heard a Pakistani professor on NPR say "there are people who support the dictatorship and don't like her, and (Pervez) Musharraf will not be able to escape complicity," and I'm really glad that was said. Let's remember that Musharraf instituted the state of emergency to stop just this type of violence, and lifted it because he thought there was relative safety. Musharraf has a long history of standing by idly while politicians are killed, including at least a few by his own security forces. After the assassination attempt on Bhutto earlier this year, Musharraf claimed that he would take control of the security detail.

Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are seen in this country as popular opposition leaders more than in Pakistan, where their corruption problems were well-known. But clearly, somebody perceived her as a threat. And now a real democracy movement may rise to break the dictatorship.

There are riots throughout the country and the police is out in force. This is very bad.

UPDATE: Submitted without comment:

U.S. Troops to Head to Pakistan
Beginning early next year, U.S. Special Forces are expected to vastly expand their presence in Pakistan, as part of an effort to train and support indigenous counter-insurgency forces and clandestine counterterrorism units, according to defense officials involved with the planning.

These Pakistan-centric operations will mark a shift for the U.S. military and for U.S. Pakistan relations. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the U.S. used Pakistani bases to stage movements into Afghanistan. Yet once the U.S. deposed the Taliban government and established its main operating base at Bagram, north of Kabul, U.S. forces left Pakistan almost entirely. Since then, Pakistan has restricted U.S. involvement in cross-border military operations as well as paramilitary operations on its soil.

But the Pentagon has been frustrated by the inability of Pakistani national forces to control the borders or the frontier area. And Pakistan's political instability has heightened U.S. concern about Islamic extremists there.