Bhutto had recently returned to Pakistan to run in the January elections against Musharraf. Her death raises concerns about democracy in Pakistan.
Bhutto's death marks a string of events that have occurred to strengthen Musharraf's likelihood of reelection. However, the issue of "democracy" has been in doubt for some time. In March 2007, Musharraf removed Pakistan's Supreme Court Chief Justice (who has been highly vocal about the legality of Musharraf's rule) which sparked growing protests. Musharraf continued his purge of the courts in spite of lawyers, judges, and massive public protest. The protests have continued into the present, and even in November were still being met with aggressive confrontation by Musharraf's forces. Since the Supreme Court is central in the election process, the "stacking the court is certainly preparation for the upcoming elections.
In November 2007, Musharraf he declared "emergency rule." This was purportedly to crack down on terrorism, except that those arrested and confined (including Bhutto) were primarily members of the political opposition. The declaration of emergency was supported by the U.S. even while asking for moderation from Musharraf. The purported reason for the continued U.S. support of Musharraf is his position as an ally in the "war on terrorism." This support makes clear that U.S. "interests" trumps "democracy" whether in Pakistan, Iraq, or the United States.
Bhutto left office under a cloud of corruption, yet she is being held up as the "hope" for democracy in Pakistan. Musharraf on the other hand, has clearly been corrupt when it comes to remaining in power and his status as an ally is belied by ongoing links to both the Taleban and other "Islamists." One might well ask where the $5 billion in U.S. aid has disappeared to. Or even if there are larger concerns about the Punjab pipeline might be of concern.
All of this begs the question of Who Killed Benazir Bhutto?. Was it "extremists," the ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency), or other political contenders? It should also be asked what exactly "democracy" means - whether in Pakistan or elsewhere?
Recommended Additional Reading
Blowback, Pakistan-style. Mark LeVine. Al Jazeera. 10/24/2007.
Benazir Bhutto's life a sweeping epic of blood and controversy. AP. 12/27/2007.
Pakistan's Missing Are Doubly Lost. Bruce Wallace. LA Times. 12/27/2007.