Pakistan, one of the most underdeveloped countries around, was in a particularly precarious situation before today's assassination. Militant Islam is on the rise in Pakistan, made clear by the July siege of the Red Mosque in Islamabad and the resurgent Taliban in the Northern provinces. Poverty is rampant, amplified by the 2005 Earthquake centered around the contested Kashmir region straddling India and Pakistan. Tribalism threatens to splinter the country into warring regions. The specter of nuclear war looms, as well as the fear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons could slip into the hands of a dangerous sovereign or rogue militant.
Ms. Bhutto, while not without her flaws, was the voice of the opposition, the voice for democratization and secularization. She was the spokeswomen for millions of Pakistani's who feared for their countries future, who wanted to take power from the dictators and the military that had been in charge for so long, and give it back to the people. Any assassination, no matter who it may be, is dreadful. But when the fate of a country, of neighboring countries, and even the world, is threatened by an assassination than such an act is made even more horrendous. The assassination of the President of the U.S., while a shock and a national tragedy, does not have the same force as the assassination that occurred today. In the U.S., popular democracy in its U.S. incarnation, roles on, because the path of democracy is clear and nonnegotiable. In Pakistan the situation is different. The future is filled with uncertainty. There is little past history to give hope. Instead the past is full of dark memories of inchoate democracy thwarted, of strong-men and power grabs, of turmoil and killing. Today was another bleak chapter in that sorrowful history, and with Ms. Bhutto gone it seems the worst is yet to come.