Use patient hand in dealing with turmoil in Pakistan
Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated two weeks before elections.
BENAZIR Bhutto foresaw her assassination upon her planned return to Pakistan after eight years in self-imposed exile, and her martyrdom in quest of democracy should be honored. Although Bhutto's violent death has brought chaos to Pakistan, elections should go forward, if not on Jan. 8, as planned, then soon afterward, in keeping with her strong desire.
"I realize that like the assassination of Benigno Aquino in Manila in August 1983, I can be gunned down on the airport tarmac when I land," Bhutto wrote in the April revision of her autobiography published 20 years ago.
"After all, al Qaeda has tried to kill me several times; why would we think they wouldn't try again as I return from exile to fight for the democratic election they so detest," she wrote. "But I do what I have to do, and am determined to return to fulfill my pledge to the people of Pakistan to stand by them in their democratic aspirations. I take the risk for all the children of Pakistan."
The revulsion to Aquino's murder on the Manila tarmac did not bring a speedy move to democracy in the Philippines. Three years would pass before Aquino's widow, Corazon, was elected to the presidency and Ferdinand Marcos was forced to flee to Hawaii, where he died in 1989.
Bhutto, twice Pakistan's prime minister, survived a bloody attack on her entourage upon the return to her country in October. She was the leading and most pro-West contender to become prime minister again as a result of the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The dozens of Pakistani political parties are framed around their leaders; Bhutto was the Pakistani Peoples Party chairwoman for life. Nawaz Sharif, also a former prime minister and the other main opposition leader, declared after Bhutto's death that his party would boycott the election.
In their absence, President Pervez Musharraf's party probably would win control of Parliament, although he is highly unpopular and was criticized for failing to provide adequate security to Bhutto. That could give rise to demonstrations similar to those that led to the exile of Marcos from the Philippines after he declared victory in the 1986 election.
Bhutto's assassination created not only chaos in Pakistan, but disarray of U.S. policy, which had involved building an alliance of Bhutto and Musharraf, despite their differences. Creating a partnership with Sharif, who has strong ties to Islamists, would be even more difficult. Musharraf led the military overthrow of Sharif in 1999.
The United States should exercise patience in dealing with the bedlam in Pakistan, a critical nuclear-armed country that has been a haven for al-Qaida along its Afghan border since Sept. 11, 2001.
As Bhutto wrote in her revised autobiography, "I know it sounds idealistic, and to some unrealistic, but after all these years I still maintain my faith that time, justice and the forces of history are on the side of democracy."