ISLAMABAD, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by a suicide bomber on Thursday, plunging the nuclear-armed country into one of the worst crises in its 60-year history.
The following are some of the possible implications of her killing.
For a January 8 general election:
Prospects for the election being held on time do not look good, especially with the party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif announcing a boycott. Before Bhutto’s assassination, the vote was seen as a three-way race between Bhutto, Sharif’s party and a party that supports President Pervez Musharraf. None was expected to win a majority. Musharraf made no mention of the election when he made a brief address to the nation blaming Bhutto’s killing on terrorists and calling for unity and support.
Bhutto’s death, while removing an old rival, is likely to lead to even greater pressure on Musharraf who has seen his popularity slide this year. Musharraf was pinning his hopes on a smooth, broadly accepted election with the party that backs him winning enough seats to form a coalition. Many Pakistanis, who relish conspiracy theories, are likely to suspect government involvement, or blame it for failing to provide sufficient security, even if the evidence eventually points to the hand of Islamist militants, who have at least twice tried to kill the president in bomb attacks.
For Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party:
Bhutto’s party, founded by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, has been widely seen as a one-person party. In the absence of a strong political figure in Bhutto’s family, or in the party, her Pakistan People’s Party could split into factions.
For the U.S.-led war on terrorism:
Bhutto was a staunch ally of the United States and had spoken out strongly of the need to fight militancy in her election campaign speeches. The United States had hoped the liberal-minded Musharraf and Bhutto might have shared power and formed a solid bulwark against militancy. Al Qaeda and allied militants are likely to take welcome her death. (Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)