The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has gripped the nation with immense sorrow and grief. Benazir was the leader of one of the largest political parties of Pakistan, the Peoples Party of Pakistan (PPP), and has twice been the Prime Minister of the country. She died when targeted by a spray of bullets while returning from a PPP rally at Laiqat Bagh, Rawalpindi, giving her a fatal wound in her neck. The assassin later blew himself up killing twenty people in the blast.
A strong sense of uncertainty was all pervasive as the news came out. As my internet at home was not working, I remained glued to the TV set only to listen to the repetitive broadcast by newsmen with little information. News was seeping in only at a snail pace , but there was no other media outlets available. There was news about riots erupting all around Pakistan that were targeting, as expected, the banners with the election symbols of PML-Q, the pro-Musharraf Party, installed at every lamppost in lieu of the approaching elections. Buses and cars were being burnt and the some PML-Q offices were also stormed.
Such a reaction was all the more expected. After all, a leader of one of the largest political parties of Pakistan was killed in cold blood. As one of my friends, Taimur Rahman puts it:
In the PPP the people of Pakistan saw a mainstream political party that spoke about the rights of poor people. The slogan of roti, kapra, makan (bread, clothes, housing) galvanized millions against the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan in the late 1960s. The democratic reforms undertaken by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto challenged the interests of the traditional ruling class of Pakistan.
The death of Benazir Bhutto resulted from the strong stance she took against Islamic fundamentalism while being soft on rule of Pervez Musharraf. PPP had also decided to run in the upcoming elections on January 8th and many were expecting Benazir to be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, irrespective of their opinion with regards to her ascendancy. The strong possibility of the rise of a secularist Benazir into power made her a mortal threat for those in the State who harbored sympathy for Islamic Fundamentalists, with whom the notorious intelligence agencies, such as the ISI, were closely knitted since the Cold War and the Afghan War. Benazir Bhutto become a symbol of resistance against Islamic Extremists – both residing inside and outside the State. She stood secularism and modernity against militant retrogressive and conservative trends.
The ruling dictatorial regime of Pakistan has proved its utter incapability in controlling the threat of Islamic Fundamentalism, which is linked with elements within the State due to historical reasons. Benazir had made it amply clear to everyone that she might be in danger of suicide attacks before coming to Pakistan. However, her return at Karachi was greeted by two suicide bombings that killed more than 150 people. After that incidence, Benazir reiterated that certain elements in the ISI want her to be eliminated. Yet, no concrete steps were taken by the government to curb the threats to her life. PPP was blamed instead for organizing mass rallies in the face of threats of suicide-bombing attacks in order to cover up the serious breach of security.
I have often pointed out elsewhere and on my blog that dictatorship incapable of remedying the menace of Islamic Fundamentalism. Islamic Fundamentalism can only be defeated by democracy. To this point, the message sent by the team of Pragoti.org seems to hit the bulls eye:
No less than a democratic authority with punitive powers to act on extremism and with the capability of asserting the sovereign will of the people is required in Pakistan. Bhutto’s assassination must force democratic and progressive forces in Pakistan to get their act together in eliminating fundamentalism and extremism in the country.