The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the first Muslim woman to lead a Muslim country, is a serious blow to Pakistan’s prospects for democracy and, indeed, its viability as a state. As chaos and confusion set in, we should not lose sight of President Pervez Musharraf’s partial responsibility for this turn of events. At the very least, he cannot be absolved from his government’s failure to provide Bhutto with adequate security.
Instead, Bhutto had to pay with her life for courageously challenging extremists of all stripes – from Al-Qaeda and Taliban to the country’s religious political parties and military hardliners.
As heir to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the legendary democratic leader who was hanged by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s government in 1979, Benazir emerged as a symbol of resistance at a young age – but languished in jails and exile in the 1980’s. Z. A. Bhutto’s legacy was empowerment of the impoverished and defense of ordinary people’s rights amid feudalistic politics and military rule. Rather than bowing to the military junta, he embraced the gallows.
Hours before his hanging, Benazir was allowed to see her father for the last time, writing in her autobiography: “I told him on my oath in his death cell, I would carry on his work.” She largely lived up to the promise.