Pakistan is on the brink of another civil war after its prodigal daughter & the preferred candidate for the Prime Minister’s post, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27. Her killing came as a shock not only to Pakistan, but to the western world that was counting on Bhutto for a smooth transition of power from Musharraf to a democratically led government.
Bhutto’s demise has changed a lot of equations in Pakistan. Though it has ensured her party’s victory in the next general elections, whenever they happen.
Whenever a leader of national stature is assassinated in this manner, the nation’s symapthy turns towards the party they belong to. This happend in 1992 in India when Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by an LTTE militant led to a massive election win for the Congress. A similar victory can be envisioned for PPP, the political party Bhutto was leading. Now as per her will, her husband Asif Ali Zardari would lead the party. That the father has passed the baton on to his son, Bilawal is a topic for another day.
What now? George Bush has clearly indicated that elections in Pakistan should be held as per schedule. So has Gordon Brown. Even the 19-year old leader of the PPP, Bilawal Bhutto, quoted his mother to ask for an election on time. The quote, “democracy is the best revenge”, will be immortalized in Pakistani politics if elections are held on January 8 as scheduled. He even asked Nawaz Sharif to reconsider his call for boycott of elections.
The interesting question here is, why would Sharif want a boycott of the elections? With the assassination of Ms. Bhutto, the US would keep a keen eye on the fairness of the polling process in Pakistan. They wouldn’t want another egg in the face. But Sharif knows that there is no way he can stop the PPP from winning the elections, as a result of the sympathy factor. Sharif, or his party, stands no chance.
So what happens next? Does Musharraf bite the bullet and postpone the elections, or does he go ahead with it? Whatever he does, terrorism has become a problem that is no more in his control. The Pakistani Army is already being accused of not spending the $500 billion that was given by US to counter Al-Qaeda. Instead, many claim, this money was used to fund Pakistani forces on the Indo-Pak border. A US probe in this affair could be a costly embarrasment to Mushy, at a time when he is being accused of involvement in the Bhutto assassination. In wake of a PPP election win, it is most certain to launch a thorough inquest into Mush’s involvement in Bhutto’s assassination.
Mushy is headed for a rough summer ahead. But what about India? Does the political instability in Pakistan pose a threat? It is already known that cross-border terrorism is quite rampant from Pakistan, and nothing is done to stop it. But with US forcing Pakistan to increase the heat on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the terrorists could possibly shift camp to safer locations in PoK. Having Al-Qaeda bases in PoK would be a nightmare scenario for the Indian security forces. This is something India would most certainly want to avoid.
India can only wait and watch, as events unforld themselves in Pakistan. And keep an eye open on the very fragile region of Kashmir. We can only hope that a democratically elected government would take stronger steps to curb all terrorism from Pakistani soil, whether it is on the Afghan border, or on the Indian border. An end to all terrorist activity from Pakistan would most certainly lead to peace in the sub-continent.
For now, Musharraf has a lot of heat to face. Pakistan holds the key to peace in the sub-continent, let us hope it does not create more trouble than it already has.
Will Benazir’s revenge be extracted in the form of long lasting democracy in Pakistan? We shall soon find out.