The big news today seems to hardly be news at all. Like a tragic play you watch anyway, knowing it will not end well, Benazir Bhutto’s assassination—once by shooting and again by bombing, just to make certain—almost seems to have been an inevitability.
Of course, those words were written by someone (me) who thought—back in September of 2001 when Pakistan’s Musharraf publicly threw in his lot with the US, post-9/11—that she was watching a dead man talking. That part of the world is a graveyard for politicians, and Musahrraf’s continued survival is a testament to what must be extreme caution, excellent bodyguards, and no small measure of good luck.
Then again, Musharraf doesn’t (at least as far as I know) make public appearances at rallies of the type Bhutto was involved in when she was assassinated. But if you’re running as the people’s candidate, I suppose you must be among the people, and that’s risky, because the people of Pakistan live in a dangerous neighborhood indeed.
Whatever you may think of Bhutto’s politics (my recent take is here), it’s impossible to argue with her bravery. She must have known what was her likely end, although I also would imagine she hoped to avoid it. Perhaps her Moslem faith, with its emphasis on fatalism and the afterlife for martyrs, sustained her in the knowledge that she had to do what she felt was necessary, and accept the possible consequences.
The media is filled with articles about her; just Google her name and you’ll find them. Wikipedia has already ammended her profile to reflect her demise. The most likely candidates for the identity of her assassins would be al Qaeda and related groups, who are already taking credit—but of course they would, even if it were not their handiwork.
Bhutto was was no stranger to violence, having been reared not only in the lap of luxury, but on tales of martyred female leaders Joan of Arc and Indira Gandhi (and see this for more on the latter’s death). Her controversial Prime Minister father was executed by his successor and political rival General Zia when Benazir was twenty-five years old. This is how she described it:
Benazir Bhutto had her last meeting with her father a few hours before he was hanged, separated by a heavy metal grille. “I pleaded, begged with them to let me embrace my beautiful father for the last time. They refused. We parted without being able to touch. But I did not cry. Daddy told me not to.”
Although Benazir had an English governess and graduated from Harvard and Oxford, I think it can be agreed that she attended a very hard school indeed. May she rest in peace.