29 December 2007

Thoughts on the Bhutto Assassination

First, belated holiday greetings to everybody. It's been a pretty busy week around here, hence no previous updates on what I got for Christmas or anything of that sort. Suffice to say, it was fantastic, possibly the best ever, and I hope that everybody had themselves a wonderful time. Thanks to everybody for all the wonderful gifts and cards, it means an awful lot to me.

I've been trying to formulate in my mind how damaging the assassination of Benazir Bhutto by a homicide bomber will be to the future of Pakistan's development as a reliable ally and friend of the West. The murder of an opposition political leader is unfathomable in Canada. People may have grumbled about Stephen Harper like they do now about Stephane Dion, but that is nowhere near the scale of the threat of violence and murder that Bhutto lived with on a daily basis. People who speak out against the actions of the government do not enjoy the same freedoms in other parts of the world as they do here--many end up in exile, in prison, or disappeared never to be seen again to challenge the government. What happened to Benazir Bhutto serves as a vivid reminder of that reality.
For a long time now I have been very wary of Western support for the regime of Pervez Musharraf, the once-military dictator who now rules the country as a civilian. I do not believe him to a reliable friend and ally in the conflict against Islamofascism, as if not he himself, there are certainly elements within his regime that coddle and turn a blind eye to the actions of terrorists who seek to kill innocent people. While Musharraf may condemn the act of terror committed this week, he does stand to gain a lot from it. The main political opposition is now without a leader, there is a lot of civil unrest stemming from the assassination that may give him carte blanche to institute martial law and/or cancel the forthcoming election, and there will be people looking to him to clamp down and impose security to prevent further political violence. All of this adds up to a potential nasty recipe for democracy, the rule of law, and the ability to look upon Pakistan as a true partner in changing the political face of the Middle East.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding Bhutto's assassination. We're not yet sure who is responsible, what will happen next, and how all the major players will react. It seems, however, that the coming weeks will be very ominous times in Pakistan, and the potential for further violence and a regression of freedoms in the country would appear to be very high.

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