Pakistan after Bhutto


Less than a day after gun and bomb attacks killed Pakistan’s iconic opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, her death has already spurred more violence in her fragile homeland.

The New York Times reports violence erupted in cities across Pakistan today, as hundreds of thousands gathered in Bhutto’s ancestral village for her funeral procession.

The Times of India reports that an al-Qaeda leader claimed credit for Bhutto’s killing, calling her “the most precious American asset.”

Amid rampant speculation about the elections, which were expected to bring Bhutto back to power for a third term as prime minister, Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Mohammadian Soomro today announced elections would be held as scheduled and urged Pakistanis to remain calm. Western leaders have called for elections to proceed despite widespread concerns over whether the vote will be seen as legitimate.

A news analysis from the Wall Street Journal drives home the possible ripple effects and says extremist groups will be “emboldened by the demise of a secular, modern Muslim politician.”

An audio report on NPR‘s “All Things Considered” argues that U.S. policy toward Pakistan will need to shift in Bhutto’s absence and notes that a shift toward Islamist influence could be dangerous, given the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The Financial Times reports that investors in South Asia have been spooked by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, sending shares reeling throughout the region. Oil and gold, considered financial safe-havens against inflation and political uncertainty, spiked.

Bhutto’s death may also have repercussions on international efforts in Afghanistan, reports Canada’s National Post. One opposition leader in Australia said the news could have strategic effects on Australian troops stationed in Afghanistan.

The New York Times looks at Senator Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Benazir Bhutto.

Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a press conference yesterday that he had urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to offer the services of U.S. intelligence and security agencies for the investigation into Bhutto’s death.

Governor Bill Richardson will deliver a major speech today in which he will criticize U.S. policy toward Pakistan as having been “too much on personalities like President Musharraf and not enough on democratic principles and human rights.” In the speech, he will pledge that if he is elected, “not a penny more in aid will be provided to Pakistan to fight terrorism until Musharraf leaves office.”

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