A bomb exploded next to a bus carrying Benazir Bhutto, killing an estimated 136 people celebrating the former prime minister’s return to Pakistan after eight years in exile. President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said he was “deeply shocked” by the apparent suicide attack—which authorities linked to al Qaida—and called it part of a “conspiracy against democracy.”
What the commentators said
“One has to take one’s hat off” to Bhutto, said the London Telegraph in an editorial, “primarily for re-entering the lion’s den of Pakistani politics.” Her jubilant return—though marred by a “murderous” bombing—put Musharraf on notice that “she remains a formidable force,” and “a democratic alternative better equipped than dictatorship to play the ‘moderate middle’ against extremism.”
Bhutto’s return was hardly “a victory for democracy,” said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration). Her two terms as prime minister were tainted by corruption charges, and only a “dubious deal” granting Musharraf another five years as president made it possible for her to go home to Karachi without landing in jail. Her presence should nudge the country away from “one-man rule,” but Washington will have to give Pakistani democracy a real push now that it has “belatedly” recognized that propping up Musharraf has “dangerously” strengthened” Pakistani extremists.
Pakistanis have mixed feelings about Bhutto, said Amy Wilentz in The Huffington Post, but the bombing “virtually assured” that she will get another shot at the prime minister’s job as head of her party’s ticket in upcoming parliamentary elections. The assassination attempt “has at least for a while turned her from just another hack politician, seeking power, back into what she was at the beginning of her political career: a beloved symbol of Pakistan, and precious.”