Benazir Bhutto is dead. I cannot believe it. I shivered when I found the breaking news of her death in The Daily Star's website early in the evening of Thursday. Like hundreds more in her country, she too fell victim to an unkind bomber. This is the sad reality confronting Pakistan these days. Terrorism has engulfed Pakistan like a cancer and in the end Bhutto had to pay with her life for keeping Pakistani democracy up.
This is not the first time that Bhutto, Pakistan's first woman prime minister, was targeted, but the attackers succeeded on that Thursday. Soon after her return from exile in October, terrorists tried to assassinate her. Nearly 140 people were killed in that explosion.
Pakistan has been facing a turbulent year, with changes in the political landscape as well as an increase in terrorist activities. More than 770 people have been killed in 40 suicide bombings this year alone.
The new year will be an even more challenging one for Pakistan, as it prepares for full civilian rule following a general election this month. Bhutto and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif both returned from exile to spearhead political campaigns. The militants are opposed to the election and have vowed to disrupt it.
It will not be easy to change this situation overnight, but Pakistanis should stand up to the challenge. A general election and a return to democracy is nevertheless Pakistan's best chance to turn the tide. Bhutto will be sorely missed as Pakistan seeks to overcome the challenge of terrorism and lawlessness.
Benazir once said that she would not take a break until democracy returned to Pakistan. She could not fulfil this dream. But it will not be impossible for the Pakistani people to achieve. The election offers a glimmer of hope for Pakistan and terrorists should not be allowed to take that chance away.
Bhutto caused a revolution in Pakistani politics. Educated at Oxford and Harvard, she became the first woman prime minister of a Muslim country when she took the helm in Pakistan in 1988. She firmly believed in democracy.
Her unexpected death is a great shock to us.
It was a gathering of democracy-loving people, assembly for the anti-terrorism activists.
Pakistan has a long tradition of political assassinations since its emergence as a state. The most important fact is that Pakistan has been under military rule which destroyed democratic pluralism in the country.
It is indeed an attack on democracy, attack on individual freedom. She sought additional security measures from President Pervez Musharraf as she felt threatened, but none was given.
MAH Nazim, Dept. of Political Science,
University of Dhaka