Much condemnation and sorrow, but little agreement on Pakistan’s future

first_imgThe world denounced the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, paying tribute Friday to a brave, if flawed, champion of democracy. International leaders appealed for calm and held their breath to see whether violence triggered by the killing would gather momentum or fizzle out. French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged President Pervez Musharraf to proceed with Jan. 8 parliamentary elections even though Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party has lost its charismatic leader. However other world leaders were more guarded on the question of whether the elections aimed at restoring democracy to Pakistan should now go ahead as planned. The United States – which had staked hopes for Pakistan’s stability on Bhutto-Musharraf reconciliation and encouraged Bhutto’s return from exile in October – was ambiguous. President Bush called on the Pakistani people “to honor Benazir Bhutto’s memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life.” Asked whether the United States was confident that Pakistan could stage an election in January, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said: “Well, we’re going to see what happens.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had spoken to Musharraf and urged him to “stick to the course he has outlined to build democracy and stability in Pakistan” – though Brown did not specifically say elections should be held Jan. 8. “This was a cowardly terrorist act designed to destabilize democratic elections,” Brown said. “The international community is united in its outrage and determination that those who stoop to such tactics shall not prevail.” Pakistani Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro said the government had no immediate plans to postpone the vote, despite the growing chaos and a decision by Nawaz Sharif, another top opposition leader, to boycott the election. “Right now, the elections stand where they were,” he told a news conference. “We will consult all the political parties to take any decision about it.” The State Department issued a warning to Americans in Pakistan about safety concerns due to potential demonstrations and disruptions following the assassination. “All Americans are asked to keep a low profile and to avoid large gatherings during any declared mourning period,” the warning said. “The potential for sporadic violence and demonstrations is much higher during the period of mourning for former Prime Minister Bhutto, and Americans are asked to avoid funeral processions and large public gatherings.” Two U.S. lawmakers cut short their visit to Pakistan in the wake of the assassination. The State Department advised Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., to leave. They had been scheduled to meet Thursday with Bhutto and Musharraf. Britain’s Foreign Office warned citizens against all but essential travel to the country, as angry Bhutto supporters ransacked banks, waged shootouts with police and burned train stations in several cities. In Britain, home to a large Pakistani community, mosques planned to say prayers for Bhutto after regular Friday prayers. The United Nations Security Council summed up the world reaction by voting Thursday unanimously to condemn the killing and urge all nations to help bring those responsible for “this reprehensible act” to justice. Pope Benedict XVI condemned the assassination as a “brutal terrorist attack” and prayed that further violence would be avoided. In India, which has fought three wars against Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Bhutto was irreplaceable. “In her death, the subcontinent has lost an outstanding leader who worked for democracy and reconciliation in her country,” Singh said. Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, who met Bhutto earlier on Thursday in Islamabad, said he was “deeply pained” by the assassination of “this brave sister of ours, a brave daughter of the Muslim world.” Even Bhutto’s many critics acknowledged her bravery. “She had plenty of physical courage and refused to be cowed by threats from local opponents,” left-wing writer Tariq Ali, who knew Bhutto for several decades, wrote in the Guardian. Bhutto’s friends acknowledged that her legacy was mixed. She was a champion of democracy whose two terms as prime minister from 1988-1996 were overshadowed by allegations of corruption. She faced death threats from al-Qaida and was a U.S. ally in the “war on terror.” But her government supported the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Bhutto was under investigation in Switzerland for allegations that she used Swiss banks to launder millions of dollars in kickbacks. The case was closed after her death but Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is still under investigation there. In October, Musharraf quashed long-standing corruption cases against Bhutto that paved the way for her return to Pakistan that same month. “She had a lot of flaws,” journalist Christina Lamb, a friend of Bhutto, told the BBC. “She admitted some of them in the end,” she added. “Whatever her faults, I think she was the best hope for Pakistan.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more