Update Dec. 28, 10:30am. Bhutto buried.
Update 3:20pm. Photos of Bhutto’s coffin leaving a Rawalpindi hospital.
Update 2:30pm. Tough talk and a reality check from Andy McCarthy…
A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden. Aspirants to the American presidency should hope to score so highly in the United States. In Pakistan, though, the al-Qaeda emir easily beat out that country’s current president, Pervez Musharraf, who polled at 38 percent.
President George Bush, the face of a campaign to bring democracy — or, at least, some form of sharia-lite that might pass for democracy — to the Islamic world, registered nine percent. Nine!
If you want to know what to make of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder today in Pakistan, ponder that.
There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the “rule of law” as a cudgel to bring down a military junta. In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.
Then there is the real Pakistan: an enemy of the United States and the West.
Update: Video – President Bush condemns the murder.
Rather than blather about bringing the killers to “justice,” Wretchard at the Belmont Club asks what died with Bhutto:
Political murder kills not only the candidates, but the process to which they belong. Pakistani politics might not miss Benazir Bhutto as an individual, but it will surely want for the elections in general.
Elections have rarely been able in and of themselves to bring about stable democratic rule. Normally things are the other way round. It is the existence of the elements of democracy that have brought elections into existence. Whether those elements now exist in Pakistan is the question…The next few days will show whether the Pakistani Army — for it will surely not be the Taliban — can rededicate itself to electoral democracy. Pakistan needs its George Washington. Unfortunately it only has its Pervez Musharraf.
Update 10:48am: Naturally, the tinfoil hatters on the Left are out in full force.
Update 10:15am: The US presidential candidates are all angling to look presidential in the aftermath of the assassination. Mitt Romney gave a brief statement televised on Fox, condemning “global, violent, radical jihadism.” Huckabee and McCain have issued statements. So has Giuliani: “The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan,” he said in a statement. “Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv, or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the terrorists’ war on us.”
President Bush is scheduled to make a statement sometime in the hour.
Update: DAWN has constant updates. Police have fired tear gas on protesters in Peshawar.
Update: One report says al Qaeda is claiming credit…
A spokesperson for the al-Qaeda terrorist network has claimed responsibility for the death on Thursday of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen,” Al-Qaeda’s commander and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location, speaking in faltering English. Al-Yazid is the main al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan.
It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October.
Death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and ultimately one cell comprising a defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer succeeded in killing Bhutto.
And here’s a rundown from October of some of Bhutto’s enemies:
• Taliban fighters and other Islamic extremists who resent a woman who wants to keep religion out of government and who supports the U.S. war on terror. Bhutto inflamed the militants recently when she said she might allow U.S. forces onto Pakistani soil to hunt Taliban and al-Qaeda forces hiding along the rugged Afghan-Pakistani border. The Taliban threatened to greet her with suicide bombers — but denied responsibility for the bloodshed in Karachi.
• Militant supporters of her estranged brother Murtaza, who was gunned down by police in 1996 during Benazir’s second term as prime minister. Murtaza had emerged as a key critic of her regime and head of an armed left-wing Peoples Party splinter group. “He had die-hard supporters who blame her for his death,” Sehgal says.
• Members of the military establishment who undermined her two governments and who three decades ago overthrew and executed her father, the charismatic Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
More on Bhutto’s enemies.
They tried and failed when she returned to Pakistan in October. They tried and failed with a baby suicide bomber. Yesterday, they stopped a 15-year-old with a bomb packed full of nails trying to kill her. Today, they succeeded. Dammit, dammit, dammit:
Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide bombing that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, a party aide and a military official said.
“At 6:16 p.m. she expired,” said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto’s party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital where she was taken after the attack.
A senior military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, confirmed that Bhutto had died.
Her supporters at the hospital began chanting “Dog, Musharraf, dog,” referring to Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf. Some of them smashed the glass door at the main entrance of the emergency unit, others burst into tears.
Some reports say Bhutto appeared to have been shot–suffering bullet wounds to the neck or head.
According to a Fox News correspondent in Pakistan, the shots were fired immediately before the blast.
Residents of Bhutto’s hometown have gone on a “rampage.”
What will Musharraf do?
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