The murder of Benazir Bhutto has driven home one single point: Pakistan has fallen off the edge. The Pakistan Peoples Party leader had finished addressing a pre-election rally in Rawalpindi when she was ambushed and shot at point-blank range. A suicide bomb subsequently ripped the area claiming more lives and injuring many more people. Her death not only signifies how deeply mired in violence Pakistani politics is, but it also points to the total change in the political atmosphere that has undergone in that country under the leadership of Pervez Musharraf. This was no assassination in some jehadi corner of Pakistan. It took place in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, the heart of Pakistani Army-ruled Pakistan, where on April 9, 1979 Ms Bhutto’s father was hanged. It is too early to say who or which institution was behind the murder. But it has proved to be too late for Ms Bhutto and for any chances of believing Mr Musharraf’s insistence that democracy in Pakistan is only an election away.
Pakistan is in trouble. It seems impossible now for elections to go ahead in the foreseeable future, not least because of one contender being horrifically taken out of the contest, but also because elections are the farthest thing from the mind of the people of Pakistan. With Thursday’s deaths, it seems that the post-9/11 destabilising forces in Pakistan have been joined by more sinister, historical forces that mark their presence throughout the country’s bloody history.
Assassinations in the subcontinent, as we in this country know all too well, are not a Pakistani monopoly. But the time and manner in which Ms Bhutto has been killed can only point to more bloodshed. What happened in Rawalpindi is shocking and yet was not a bolt from the blue. Ms Bhutto was aware of the threat to her life when she returned from exile earlier this year. Regardless of who ultimately claims responsibility — or, in keeping with Pakistani history, doesn’t — Mr Musharraf has much to answer for. For Pakistan has come to this. The light of Larkana has gone out of Pakistan. With it, so seems any chance of peace, never mind of democratic peace, in that unfortunate, unfortunate land.