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The Bhutto Assassination: A Human Rights Perspective

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On Thursday, December 27, Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan and the current opposition party leader, succumbed to an assassin's bullet. Chaos has ensued.

Will this be a step backwards in efforts to restore democracy in nuclear Pakistan? I hope not, but Bhutto's assassination is not a good sign.

Benazir Bhutto was good for Pakistan and good for the world. She worked tirelessly to promote democracy in her country, and to stand up for the rights of the poor and the needy. This is in stark contrast to Pakistani President Musharraf's preferred method of governance by military dictatorship.

As the first woman ever elected to lead a Muslim state, Bhutto was also a symbol of progress for women's rights in the Islamic world.

With Bhutto's death, the human rights community has lost a strong and steadfast ally.

In response to the assassination, Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch said, "Benazir Bhutto was a democrat who believed in the supremacy of constitutional rule and, throughout her career, sought power through the ballot box. She died campaigning for votes and calling for a free election."

Amnesty International (AI) is calling on Musharraf's government to uphold the rule of law and the rules of democratic behavior in the aftermath of the Bhutto assassination. AI's Catherine Baber stated, "The killing of Benazir Bhutto must not be allowed to become a setback to civilian governance or indeed lead to a further crackdown on civil liberties."

My condolences go out to Bhutto's family and political followers.

May she rest in peace.



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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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