I think Ms. Bhutto may have represented the hopes of many Pakistani citizens in that she would help the country emerge from the devolving military state that Musharraf created. At any rate, it is interesting to see how assassinations change the dynamics of political options for the populace in Asian countries. I don't know how many of you (Indians) remember -- or are old enough to remember -- Rajiv Gandhi's assassination during his bid for PM-ship in the early '90s, but Bhutto's killing reminded me very much of his.
Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday by an attacker who shot her after a campaign rally and then blew himself up. Her death stoked new chaos across the nuclear-armed nation, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.
At least 20 others were also killed in the attack on the rally for Jan. 8 parliamentary elections where the 54-year-old Bhutto had just spoken.
Her supporters erupted in anger and grief after her killing, attacking police and burning tires and election campaign posters in several cities. At the hospital where she died, some smashed glass and wailed, chanting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf.
Musharraf blamed Islamic extremists for Bhutto's death and said he would redouble his efforts to fight them.
"This is the work of those terrorists with whom we are engaged in war," he said in a nationally televised speech. "I have been saying that the nation faces the greatest threats from these terrorists. ... We will not rest until we eliminate these terrorists and root them out."
In the U.S., a tense looking President Bush strongly condemned the attack "by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy."
Musharraf convened an emergency meeting with his senior staff, where they were expected to discuss whether to postpone the elections, an official at the Interior Ministry said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
The attacker struck just minutes after Bhutto addressed thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, 8 miles south of Islamabad.
She was shot in the neck and chest by the attacker, who then blew himself up, said Rehman Malik, Bhutto's security adviser.
Sardar Qamar Hayyat, a leader from Bhutto's party, said he was standing about 10 yards away from her vehicle at the time of the attack.
"She was inside the vehicle and was coming out from the gate after addressing the rally when some of the youths started chanting slogans in her favor. Then I saw a smiling Bhutto emerging from the vehicle's roof and responding to their slogans," he said.
"Then I saw a thin, young man jumping toward her vehicle from the back and opening fire. Moments later, I saw her speeding vehicle going away," he added.
Bhutto was rushed to the hospital and taken into emergency surgery. She died about an hour after the attack.