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Politics & Power

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Death and Politics in Pakistan

In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated December 27th after a rally for her followers. In the eyes of many, hope for the region was also killed by the assassinís bullets.

Benazir Bhutto was loved and hated by many both in and out of Pakistan. She was seen as a legitimate threat to the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many saw her as more willing than Pervez Musharraf to engage and destroy the elements within her country and more likely to give more substantial support to U.S. forces in the efforts to remove the Taliban and al Qaeda completely from region.

Many Americans may not fully comprehend the impact this assassination potentially will have on the men and women in our armed services. The current leader of Pakistan has often failed to produce when it comes to real support in the search for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leaders that have fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan to avoid capture by U.S. forces. Despite promises of full support, Pervez Musharraf has not produced any significant results in combating the Taliban or al Qaeda. While the Musharraf government is openly supporting our efforts, the Taliban has regained strength and messages from al Qaeda warning of new attacks have begun to become more frequent.

Benazir Bhutto was fully committed to chasing down and eliminating the extremist threats within her country. There was no ambiguity of purpose and no doubt that under her leadership, Pakistan would have a very different relationship with the United States. During her previous term as Prime Minister of Pakistan, Bhutto had even begun to make overtures to India and had worked toward easing the tensions between the two nations that have been at odds with one another since the departure of the British in the late 1940ís that led to the splitting of India into modern day India and Pakistan. This type of diplomatic focus has not been seen under the Musharraf administration and is not likely to be seen if more Islamic fundamentalist leaning leaders are able to wrest power from the current President who came to power as the result of a military coup.

The removal of Bhutto from the field of candidates in the upcoming election may result in an outcome that is worse than anyone could have imagined prior to the assassination. Some within Pakistani politics feel that the desire of the people to be rid of Musharraf is so strong that they might turn away from the more moderate ideals of Benazir Bhutto to the more fundamentalist Islamist friendly Nawaz Sharif who like Bhutto has been the Prime Minister of Pakistan before. Sharif has ties to some Islamic extremist groups and has shown willingness in the past to openly defy the U.S. and U.N. on the issue of nuclear arms and nuclear arms testing. This combination of ties to our enemies and a track record showing little regard for U.S. interests makes Sharif the Bush administrationís worst nightmare in the region. If elected Sharif will likely feel immediate pressure from all sides to not alter the agreements with the U.S. on Afghanistan and the Taliban but itís almost impossible to say what decisions the newly elected leader would make.

Though named his motherís successor with the leadership of the Pakistan Peopleís Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, does not have the public experience or political savvy of his mother. The likelihood of the party being able to get their members to rally behind him in just the few days left before the election is not high. The party may carry the day but even if that were to happen there is nothing to say what will be done differently without Benazir Bhutto at the head of the party.

The likely impact on American troops regardless of who wins the election is that there will be no immediate relief in Afghanistan and finding Osama bin Laden is going to depend on the health of our relationship with whichever party controls Pakistan after the election. Deployments are likely to once again be extended because we will have no more support from Pakistan than we do today and there is a strong possibility that the relationship will weaken under new leadership.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer | Give your feedback on this article.

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