Pakistan postponed parliamentary elections—which had been set for Jan. 8—until Feb. 18 due to the assassination of opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Nearly 60 people have been killed in rioting as crowds vented rage at the government of President Pervez Musharraf. (Reuters)
What the commentators said
With Bhutto’s death, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial (free registration), Washington’s “ignominious plan to keep Pervez Musharraf in the presidency while ushering in the popular Bhutto to serve as prime minister is now in ruins.” The U.S. can help set things right by refusing to recognize “sham elections” that “would give Musharraf a fake mandate.”
It’s too early to say who was responsible for Bhutto’s death, said former Pakistani prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif in The Washington Post (free registration), but “Musharraf alone is responsible for the chaos in Pakistan.” He has spent eight years “demolishing institutions, subverting the constitution, dismantling the judiciary and gagging the media.”
This tragedy was the “coup de grace” to the “botched American attempt to manage a nuclear-armed Islamic state,” said Roger Cohen in the International Herald-Tribune. Bhutto returned from exile in October “under a flawed U.S.-mediated plan to shift Pakistan from direct to indirect military rule with a civilian veneer.” Now, “only Pakistani democracy can avenge, in part,” the murder of a unique leader and “offset the American mistakes that led to this loss.”
It’s easy to second-guess U.S. policy in Pakistan, said The Providence Journal in an editorial. But Pakistan is “a very complicated nation,” and, “believe it or not, even after billions in U.S. aid since 9/11, it’s still an independent country. We shouldn’t let American narcissism make everything "'our fault.'"
Logic didn't stop Democrats from playing politics with Bhutto’s assassination, said Robert Spencer in Human Events. The front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination—Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—promptly accused the Bush administration of coddling Musharraf, but the “cold reality” is that this is a country where “free democratic elections” could produce a “pro-Osama, pro-jihad government.”