This is obviously breaking news.
A party security adviser said Bhutto was shot in the neck and chest as she got into her vehicle, then the gunman blew himself up.
Security had been tight, with hundreds of riot police manning security checkpoints with metal detectors around what was Bhutto’s first campaign rally since returning from exile two months ago.
Bhutto had planned an earlier rally in the city, but Musharraf forced her to cancel it, citing security fears. In October, suicide bombers struck a parade celebrating Bhutto’s return, killing more than 140 people in the southern city of Karachi.
The unrest in Pakistan is clearly troubling, and this event will mar whatever result the elections bring next month. Pakistan has always been teetering on the edge of ruin.
Western allies hope the election will restore stability in a nuclear-armed country vital to their battle against Islamist militancy.
I’d say that that “hope” has faded.
Not a lot of time right now, but here are a few thoughts.
Success in Afghanistan depends upon stability and cooperation in Pakistan. There’s been precious little of either, for the most part. Though getting the Pakistani government to side with us after 9/11 was a major success story, the actual results of the alliance have been largely mixed.
Long-term, an unstable or unfriendly Pakistan will make the war against our enemies far more difficult. Right now, the wilds of eastern Pakistan are a haven to the Taliban fighters and leadership that we battle in Afghanistan. But an unfriendly government, or even increased instability, could turn the whole country into a haven for all our enemies. Sort of a Taliban Afghanistan with 161 million people and a relatively modern military. Oh, and those pesky nuclear weapons.
Short-term, I wouldn’t be shocked to see some sort of a major offensive launched by Taliban hold-outs following this successful attack. Whether they were directly involved or not, their leaders are sure to be heartened by the chaos and uncertainty that will follow, and that environment is one that they thrive in.
Fortunately, Taliban offensives are usually an environment that US and NATO troops seem to thrive in, as well. Large-scale ops by the militants usually result in large-scale militant casualties.
Whatever happens, this is sure to stir things up.
UPDATE: Jules Crittenden:
I have a very bad feeling about all of this. The potential for critically destablizing a flank that was difficult enough as it was is huge. I’d feel slightly better if Rumsfeld had doubled the size of the Army, and wish Bush and Congress would crank that up. This war is far from over. This war is no artificial Bush creation or figment of anyone’s imagination, and should still be very much part of our own election, wishful thinking notwithstanding.