She was many things for many people. For her supporters, Benazir Bhutto was a Princess Charming with a soft, silky voice and a beguiling appearance, promising them God and the world. For the servants and laborers on her estates in Larkana, she was the mistress of the house, as impatient as she was demanding. And for her political allies and opponents alike, Bhutto was an instinctive politician, adept at gauging the political mood and unwavering in her determination to achieve her goals.
Benazir Bhutto, 54, a product of Western elite educational institutions and an Eastern feudal culture, was admired by many and held up as a torchbearer of democracy and a shining hope for her country. But she also had her share of detractors, who condemned her as a corrupt egomaniac reluctant to take advice from anyone. For them, she was Pakistan's Evita Peron, a woman with the IQ of a Hillary Clinton and the iron will of a Maggie Thatcher.
The name her ambitious and powerful parents chose for her means "The Incomparable" in Urdu. Constantly aware of her important place in history, Benazir chose to name her autobiography "Daughter of Destiny." Whether she was loved or hated, and whether the government of US President George W. Bush made the right decision in expressing its preference for Bhutto and touting her as the shining hope of democracy in Pakistan, she never failed to make an impression on anyone.
On that fateful Thursday afternoon, Bhutto was campaigning in Rawalpindi, a garrison town only a few kilometers from the parliament and ministries in the capital Islamabad. She sought to portray herself as being tough on Islamist terror and as Pakistan's savior. Bhutto, who had just returned to her native Pakistan in mid-October after an eight-year exile, and her Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) were leading the opinion polls in the run-up to the parliamentary election President Pervez Musharraf had set for Jan. 8.
'Allah Decided the Hour of My Death'
There was hope and almost a celebratory sense of change in the crisp winter air as the candidate, wearing a white shawl, sat in a white limousine en route to her campaign appearance, a white megaphone attached to the roof of the vehicle.
The vehicle moved slowly through the cheering crowd, a nightmare scenario for her security contingent. But Bhutto had insisted on being close to the people, despite the fact that she had narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber in Karachi, the country's commercial capital, shortly after arriving in the country, an attack that claimed 140 lives. "Allah decided on the hour of my death long ago," she told a group of concerned supporters at the time.
After speaking to a crowd of cheering supporters in Rawalpindi's Liaqat Bagh Park, Bhutto sat down in her vehicle, which then began moving toward the gate to the park, where a group of supporters had gathered. Despite warnings of a possible assassination attempt, Bhutto climbed up onto the seat to wave to her fans through the car's sunroof. That was when the assassin saw his opportunity.
There were several gunshots. According to the government, though, Bhutto's life was not snuffed out by bullets. Rather, Islamabad says the force of the ensuing bomb slammed Bhutto's head against the sunroof, smashing her head. The blast killed 20 others as well. A video of the attack surfaced over the weekend, however, which appears to support claims from Bhutto supporters that she was shot. The footage shows a man firing a handgun from close range -- Bhutto's hair and shawl jump upwards as he fires. Bhutto allies accuse the government of trying to cover up just how lax the security was at the rally, but her husband elected not to allow an autopsy, meaning the true cause of her death may never be determined.
Last Hope for a Peaceful Future
What is clear, however, is what happened immediately following the attack. In one image, an uninjured man sat, staring into the distance in disbelief, surrounded by carnage, while others screamed in despair. An angry mob of supporters attempted to break down the door of the hospital where Bhutto was taken. Seemingly oblivious to the realization -- after having seen Bhutto's blood-soaked body -- that their efforts were in vain, the mob even attempted to storm the operating room.
Doctors at the municipal hospital announced the death of Benazir Bhutto at 6:16 p.m. local time on Dec. 27, 2007. It was on that date, and at that moment, that Pakistan's last hope for a peaceful future was probably extinguished.
But who killed her? Was it al-Qaida terrorists? They had, after all, threatened to kill Bhutto months ago because she had declared her support for Musharraf's bloody storming of Islamabad's Red Mosque to get at the Islamists who were holed up inside. She had also declared war on all radical religious fanatics. Or was it perhaps agents from Pakistan's notorious intelligence agency ISI, settling old scores? Or could the attack have been the work of supporters of Nawaz Sharif, Bhutto's archrival and main competitor for many years? It could even have been revenge for an attempted assassination of Sharif only hours earlier -- Sharif escaped unharmed, but four of his supporters died in the attack.
A few hours after the murder, a man claiming to be a spokesman for the al-Qaida terrorist network called the Asia Times newspaper and claimed responsibility for the assassination. American FBI experts were quick to characterize the claim as "highly credible."
Hours after Bhutto's death, an e-mail message was released that Bhutto had written on Oct. 26 to her American friend and advisor Mark Siegel, who passed on the message to the CNN. "In the event of my death," she wrote in her message, in which she instructed Siegel to release its contents should she be killed, "I would hold Musharraf responsible." It was a macabre message from a politician who was apparently convinced that she was doomed -- from someone determined to have the last word, to be the ultimate interpreter of the incident, even from her grave. In the e-mail, Bhutto accuses the president of not having taken sufficient steps to prevent her death: "And there is no way what is happening, in terms of stopping me from taking private cars or using tinted windows or giving jammers or four police mobiles to cover all sides, could happen without him."
While anything seems possible, one thing is certain: Pakistan is descending into chaos. Bombs are exploding in Peshawar, Lahore and half a dozen other places, but especially in the country's largest city Karachi in the southern Sindh province, a stronghold for Bhutto's PPP. More than 30 people died in the unrest that ensued during the first 24 hours after the political assassination with at least 10 more deaths coming over the weekend. Security forces were authorized to shoot rioters on sight in an effort to restore calm.
'The World's Most Dangerous Country'
The world's reaction has been one of shock and consternation. Political leaders in the East and West, regardless of their ideological convictions, are unanimous in their outrage over the Bhutto killing. US President George W. Bush called it an "act of cowardice" and demanded that whoever was behind the attack be brought to justice. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel used almost the same helpless words in condemning the attack. Manmohan Singh, prime minister of Pakistan's archenemy India, said: "The subcontinent has lost an outstanding leader who worked for democracy and reconciliation in her country." Afghan President Hamid Karzai was visibly moved as he spoke to the press, his hands shaking and tears in his eyes. Only hours before the attack in Islamabad, Karzai had met with Bhutto to discuss relations between the two neighboring countries. "She was a brave daughter of the Muslim world," he said. "She sacrificed her life for the sake of Pakistan, and for the sake of this region. I found in her this morning a lot of love and desire for peace in Afghanistan."
On the night of the assassination, President Musharraf announced a three-day national period of mourning. It was only in mid-December that Musharraf had lifted the state of emergency he had imposed six weeks earlier and, by resigning as head of the military, had paved the way for free elections. Given the current, heated mood in Pakistan, peaceful elections seem highly unlikely. In fact, the country could soon face martial law yet again.
Many experts doubt whether the country's highly unpopular president, disparaged as "Washington's lackey" and "Busharraf," will be able to hold the country together. The ensuing nightmare scenario includes civil war, the loss of control over nuclear weapons, terrorist groups operating freely in many parts of the country, which could serve as an ideal hideout for Afghanistan's Taliban, the possibility of attacks against archenemy India, a struggle over Kashmir and the destabilization of an entire region.
'World's Most Dangerous Country'
This is not just any nation that threatens to join the ranks of "failed states," a category that includes countries like Somalia or Burma. Pakistan, home to 160 million people, is marked by explosive contradictions. It is both extremely poor and a nuclear power; it is a close ally to the United States and a breeding ground for Islamist violence -- Bush and Bin Laden country at the same time. Pakistan's military leaders are among the world's most corrupt, and yet the US has continued to send state-of-the-art weapons and billions in aid to Islamabad.
Robert Gallucci, a senior government advisor in Washington for many years, has said that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan "poses the single greatest threat to the national security of the United States." Newsweek calls Pakistan the "world's most dangerous country." According to Fareed Zakaria, an expert on Islam and the Middle East, "if there is a central front in the war on terror, it is not in Iraq but in Pakistan."
And the tentacles of Pakistani terror are long, reaching deeply into Europe. British intelligence believes that 4,000 Islamist extremists, most of them British citizens who were trained in camps along the Afghan border, are already in Great Britain.
Violent extremists have also set their sights on Germany. In September, it was revealed that a trio of young Islamists living in Germany had planned a massive attack involving three car bombs containing about 500 kilograms of explosives. According to Nihad C., 27, a resident of the southern German city of Pforzheim who was arrested by the Pakistani secret service organization ISI in late January and was quickly persuaded to confess, the northern Pakistani town of Mir Ali is something of a German enclave, a meeting place and training center for jihadists who have joined Uzbek and Arab al-Qaida fighters in preparation for a "holy war."
These radical extremists could only have benefited from Bhutto's murder. They wanted to see her eliminated, this politician who represented, at least in her public rhetoric, everything they hate: Westernization, the rule of law and an independent judiciary, and equal rights for women. Especially threatening was her demand for government-sponsored "secular" education beyond the reach of their power bases, the madrassas -- religious schools where 1.5 million young men receive their education. Parts of the country are already controlled by the Islamists, who are able to move and act freely in villages and even in major cities like Karachi.
A Series of Bombs and Blood
In January, suicide bombers blew themselves up in front of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and next to a police unit in Peshawar. In February, extremists attacked the "Friendship Express," a train service linking Delhi and Lahore, killing 68 people. The next day Zilla Huma Uzman, a regional politician, was shot dead in Punjab Province. The attacker justified the killing by saying that he was merely carrying out the will of God -- Uzman, a woman, was not wearing a headscarf.
In July, radical Koran students barricaded themselves into the Red Mosque in Islamabad. More than 100 people were killed when the military intervened. "Our blood," the students' leader, Abdul Rashi Ghazi, had announced earlier, "will be the first step in an Islamic revolution." In mid-December, a suicide bomber killed 50 worshipers in a mosque near Peshawar. The former interior minister, apparently the target of the attack, managed to escape the blast.
The situation is also spinning out of control in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Waziristan, a place where the central government has never had much say, battles between radical Islamist insurgents and the army are becoming increasingly intense. The "federally administered tribal regions," an area about the size of Belgium, are backward and economically underdeveloped. The region's more than three million inhabitants, a majority of them uneducated and illiterate, are easy prey for the extremists and their simplistic "truth."
Waziristan has become something of a second home for the Taliban and al-Qaida, who are able to operate and recruit fighters there virtually undisturbed by the authorities. Groups of self-confident extremists patrol the mountainous region's cities and villages almost daily, recruiting new, potential suicide bombers. Waziristan is also believed to be the current home of Osama bin Laden, the "godfather of terror," who issued four provocative messages from his Pakistani hideout in 2007.
Pakistan's religious extremists, once secretly supported by the government -- which had hoped to use them as clandestine players in the Kashmir conflict -- are now more powerful than ever and constitute an acute threat to Islamabad. And their influence is growing. Many local tribal leaders sympathize openly with the militants, partly as a reaction to the killings of many civilians during Pakistani army attacks in recent years.
How Secure Are Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons?
In addition to resisting government control, insurgents in Waziristan and other tribal regions have managed to convince hundreds of soldiers and police officers to switch sides. The ceasefires between tribal leaders and the military, meant to bring peace to the volatile region, have been completely ineffective. The terrorists' influence has since spread to the picturesque Swat Valley, once a popular vacation spot for Pakistanis from the capital Islamabad. In the months leading up to the Bhutto assassination, suicide bombers were blowing themselves up every few days -- and with ever-increasing frequency.
But the Islamists aren't the only ones to have benefited from Bhutto's murder. Elements within the military and intelligence community -- no longer sure that a weakened Musharraf has the power to protect them -- felt threatened by Bhutto's promises to make their activities more transparent. They too could be behind the assassination.
"All countries have armies, but here, an army has a country," Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy once said. Generals have ruled Pakistan directly for 33 years of its history, and they have exerted power behind the scenes during the country's 27 years of "civilian" rule. The military, with its 619,000 troops and its claim to a quarter of Pakistan's annual budget, is showered with privileges. Higher-ranking officers, in particular, would have a lot to lose should democracy take firm hold in Pakistan. There is hardly anything in the country that the officers don't own or have a stake in. The army, operating in the guise of foundations, owns chemical factories, power plants and a bank. It is the country's largest real estate developer, and it owns cement plants and shoe factories. It should come as no surprise that Pakistan's brightest and most ambitious opt for a military career, in a country where officers are the true national elite.
The Questionable Security of Pakistan's Nukes
A wave of uncertainty, though, is now washing over that elite. Pervez Musharraf, their commander-in-chief for many years, recently responded to pressure exerted by both Washington and Bhutto by removing his army uniform, turning him into a civilian president. Frustrations are even more deep-seated within the intelligence service, which still harbors many Taliban sympathizers -- indeed, the ISI helped create the Islamist group. The rumblings within the Pakistani military and intelligence communities can hardly bode well when it comes to the question of all questions, the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
Only two years ago, Musharraf boasted that he had "taken the world's best security precautions" with the country's nuclear weapons. But Western governments are not nearly as confident. If Musharraf is toppled, no one knows what would happen to his team of officials who control Pakistan's estimated 65 nuclear warheads.
"The truth is that we have no idea how many of the security precautions depend on Musharraf and how many are institutionalized," a senior US government official told the New York Times only a few weeks ago. It is known that the warheads are stored separately from the delivery systems, as are the detonators. Intelligence officials also believe that there are at least 12 different storage sites for nuclear materials in Pakistan. A center for nuclear safety, part of a $100-million program funded by Washington, is under construction. But what good are any of these precautions if the security plans fall into the hands of al-Qaida or other radicals?
Motivation for Killing Bhutto?
Western experts caution against placing too much faith in Pakistani promises. Five years ago, Musharraf assured the world, just as he is doing today, that a leak in Pakistan's nuclear program was inconceivable. At exactly the same time, though, Abdul Qadir Khan -- called the "father of the Pakistani atom bomb" for the role he played in helping Pakistan become a nuclear power in 1998 -- was doing a lot of traveling. For Khan, a national role was not enough. An Islamist sympathizer, Khan arranged deals with North Korea, Iran and Libya -- supposedly without the knowledge of senior military officials -- and sold construction plans and centrifuges for enriching uranium on the black market. In 2004, when the CIA presented evidence of Khan's illegal activities, Musharraf had him placed under house arrest but did not strip him of medals he had been awarded for masterminding the country's nuclear program.
Khan is unlikely to face criminal prosecution. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which serves as the United Nations watchdog on issues relating to nuclear weapons, would like to question him about his deals, but the Pakistani government has allowed neither the UN inspectors nor American intelligence direct access to Khan.
Benazir Bhutto had also indicated her willingness to compromise on the issue, and had even discussed the possibility of revoking Khan's immunity from prosecution. If Khan, the man who loves the bomb, had talked, senior intelligence and military officials all the way up to Musharraf could face scrutiny. Could this have been the motivation behind Bhutto's killing?
The Rules Didn't Apply to Benazir Bhutto
Bhutto embodied the dreams and tragedies of her people and nation more than any other public figure. Pakistan is the only country in the world that owes its creation -- during the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 into predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan -- to Islam. The extent to which religion should influence the state, the constitution and the legal system is a question that continues to divide Pakistanis today, so much so that 60 years after independence Pakistan remains a country still struggling to find its identity and values.
The other central question that divides the country is its social structure. Since independence, major landowners have presided over their estates like Medieval European fiefs, treating their employees as little more than slaves. Women, meanwhile, are often confined to the home under an especially strict application of the rules of purdah, or segregation of the sexes. Like in Saudi Arabia, Pakistani women who are victims of rape can expect to be accused of adultery.
These rules never applied to Benazir Bhutto, "The Incomparable." Born in Karachi's best hospital in 1953, pampered by the staff at the family's estate in Larkana, she lived in luxury and freedom. Her liberal mother, a beauty of Persian heritage, introduced her to domestic and foreign literature at an early age. Her father encouraged her to study historic archetypes like Joan of Arc and contemporary female leaders like Indira Gandhi. Bhutto, in fact, met Indira Gandhi, the woman whose fate she would later share in such a tragically similar way, as a teenager while accompanying her father on a state visit. Bhutto referred to the Indian leader admiringly as "a woman made of silk and steel."
"My daughter will go into politics and become prime minister," said Benazir's father, who assumed the same office in 1973. Benazir herself never hid her conviction that she felt called to higher office, not just because of her father's wishes, but because God had entrusted her with a mission. "It is not I who chose this life for me," she wrote in her autobiography, both proudly and seemingly resigned to her fate. "It chose me."
A Martyr's Death for an Untalented Leader
She attended Harvard University, where she studied history and political science. In 1977, while studying at Britain's elite Oxford University, she was the first Asian woman to be named president of the famous debating club Oxford Union, where she would drink apple wine during heated political discussions and flirt with her fellow students. She often referred to herself as a "child of the East," and yet during her university years she clearly played the role of a beauty of the West, with her tight jeans, revealing tops and sexy eye makeup. Politically she classified herself as a "democratic socialist" and as a "champion of the rights of the people."
But when she returned to Pakistan, Bhutto seemed completely at ease with the feudal system that supported her family's lifestyle, even accepting her father's increasingly authoritarian behavior within Pakistan's political landscape. She was a woman who would change political colors like a chameleon, portraying herself as an earthy, deeply religious populist in the countryside and as an enlightened, worldly and secular woman in the city.
In July 1977, after she had been back in Pakistan for only a few days, her father was deposed in a military coup. General Zia ul-Haq, the country's new strongman, had the senior Bhutto sentenced to death in a manipulated trial. Young Benazir had the opportunity to meet with her father in his prison cell, a formative experience for her. She and her mother fought desperately for her father's life, but were ultimately unable to prevent him from being hanged in 1979 -- in Rawalpindi, the place where Benazir would later die a martyr's death.
Dedicated to the Cause of Democracy?
She swore to avenge her father and sought to incite violence in the streets. The military government had her taken into custody and placed her under house arrest for almost three years. But the military was unable to break Benazir. She spent the time secretly forging alliances, and deliberately using her family's martyr role to further her own career. Later she even had herself named "chairwoman for life" of the PPP, an odd title for the leader of a party dedicated to the cause of democracy.
Bhutto was allowed to emigrate to Great Britain in 1984, but she didn't last long there. After General ul-Haq's death in a mysterious plane crash in August 1988, she saw her opportunity and ran as her party's leading candidate in the ensuing parliamentary election, and won. On Dec. 2, 1988, Bhutto was sworn in as prime minister, becoming the first female head of a state of an Islamic country.
Her charisma and intelligence were far more developed than her talents as a leader. While Bhutto remained celebrated in the West, things began to spin out of control in Pakistan. Nepotism soon replaced her much-touted social programs, partly owing to the influence of her husband, cement magnate Ali Asif Zardari. Despite her image as a modern, self-confident woman, Bhutto agreed to an arranged marriage with Zardari. The avaricious Zardari, who soon acquired the nickname "Mr. 10 Percent" for his alleged habit of skimming money off of government contracts, eventually spent close to eight years in Pakistani prisons for corruption.
Barely two years into her first term, Bhutto's government was, in 1990, dismissed on charges of corruption. During her time in office, experts with Transparency International classified Pakistan as one of the world's three most corrupt nations. A Swiss court eventually sentenced Bhutto and her husband to suspended jail terms on charges of money laundering.
Where others might have given up, Bhutto continued to pursue a political career. In the coming years, she and Nawaz Sharif took turns as prime minister, their terms periodically interrupted by military interventions. Bhutto returned as prime minister from 1993 to 1996, but despite a promising start, she remained relatively ineffective in her second term. To downplay the "stigma" of her Westernization in Pakistan's male-dominated society, she sought to portray herself as a devout Muslim woman. And despite the fact that Bhutto, as an enlightened thinker, was ideologically opposed to Islamism, she allowed her intelligence agencies free rein in supporting the Taliban in the hope of securing Pakistan's influence in constantly volatile Afghanistan -- a move she would later regret.
Leadership to Stay in the Family
Her personal life was marked by a series of tragedies. At times it almost seemed as if the Bhutto family were cursed. Her brother Shah-Nawaz died in southern France, presumably after being poisoned by Pakistani intelligence agents. Her other brother Murtaza, who had joined an opposition party, was killed in a police raid in Karachi under mysterious circumstances. It was one funeral after the next for the Bhutto family, and eventually all that was left of Benazir's family were her ailing mother and her three children. Her sons, Bilawal, now 19, and Bakhtwar, 17, and her daughter Aseefa, 14, were almost as important to her as her political calling. Bilawal, who has just begun his studies at Oxford, has now been named to succeed his mother as head of the PPP -- but will only take over once he has finished his degree. Bhutto's husband, "Mr. 10 Percent," will handle leadership duties until then.
After going into exile again in 1999, Bhutto spent the next eight years in London and Dubai, forging ties to the American government and military leader Pervez Musharraf. Sept. 11, 2001 marked a turning point in her career.
After the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the White House presented Musharraf with a choice: join the Americans in their "war on terror" or risk, in the words of leading members of the Bush administration, "being bombed back to the Stone Age." Musharraf, who became a close ally of the United States and received billions in military and economic aid, had key al-Qaida terrorists arrested.
But whether he was consistently upfront with his American allies is highly questionable. The politically agile Musharraf, with his fondness for whisky and his aversion to strict religious rules, has also forged alliances with the Islamists and their political representatives. He is convinced that he needs the Islamists to remain in power, despite the fact that he has narrowly escaped several assassination attempts. According to the current assessment of US intelligence, "al-Qaida has become entrenched in Pakistan's lawless regions and is now in a better position than ever to attack the West."
For US President George W. Bush, the Bhutto murder is a nightmare, triggering, as it has, angry protests in the cities of a Muslim country with nuclear weapons, a country whose president, Bush's "friend" Pervez Musharraf, is seen as a possible suspect, at least in the eyes of Bhutto's furious supporters. Pakistanis in the streets of cities from Karachi to Peshawar have taken to calling their president "Killer Musharraf."
'I Will Not Shrink from Responsibility'
The government in Washington had placed great hopes in Bhutto as part of its ambitious project of returning stability to a country shaken by Islamists. The White House had leaned heavily on Musharraf to allow Bhutto to return from the West, and Washington was behind the curious power-sharing arrangement with Musharraf, a general who had come to power in a military coup, in which he would remain as Pakistan's civilian president and she would head up the government.
Now, though, the elections that were to usher Bhutto back into the prime minister's office have been thrown into doubt by her death, and Pakistan's Election Commission recommended on Sunday that the vote be delayed by several weeks. The PPP would like the country to go to the polls as quickly as possible to benefit from a massive wave of sympathy for Bhutto now sweeping the country.
The US seems to be betting on her husband as a possible election victor. On the day of the attack US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke by phone with Bhuttos widower Ali Asif Zardari, now acting PPP head. Bhutto seriously considered him to be Pakistans Nelson Mandela, and one of her top priorities had been to ensure his rehabilitation if she became prime minister again. For years Washington had put all its backing behind Musharraf in order to keep Pakistan in the anti-terror coalition. But Bush had reluctantly begun to realize that the president, decried as a US lackey, had actually become an unreliable ally.
The Terror Problem
It was Washingtons Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, a man who specializes in delicate missions from Latin America to Iraq, who in November persuaded Musharraf to lift the state of emergency. He also urged Musharraf to release Bhutto from her house arrest and to announce a date for parliamentary elections.
It was something of an about-face for the Bush Administration. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the US has pumped $10 billion (€6.7 billion) into Pakistan in order to guarantee that Musharraf and his army would become a reliable ally in the war against Islamist terror. Still, despite 50 percent of those funds being handed to the country's military, terror has remained a major problem in Pakistan.
The US, in short, has seen little return on its investment. Despite warnings from Washington, Musharraf repeatedly entered into tactical alliances with radical forces in his own country. Meanwhile, America is no longer so convinced of Pakistans value in the war on terror. Only last week the US Congress imposed new restrictions on aid to Musharraf.
In stark contrast Bhutto promised the US clarity and a lack of ambiguity. To her Western mentors it seemed that she had finally made a commitment to democracy and perhaps she had. Her editorials in leading Western newspapers, combined with her speeches and interviews, indicated that she was heading firmly in a democratic direction. It was possible that in her third stint as prime minister, she was going to complete a political transformation.
But Washington was expecting much more from Bhutto. For one, the future constellation of power seemed like a reassuring arrangement: a civilian democratic façade with the military guaranteeing security. Bhutto had made it known that once in power she would allow US forces to attack al-Qaida bases on Pakistani territory -- if Pakistani soldiers were not in position to do so, she added. The comment was a clear swipe at Musharraf, who had always insisted that despite a heavy military presence, it was simply impossible to gain control over the volatile border region with Afghanistan. In an interview with SPIEGEL in August, Bhutto warned of the great danger that terrorism posed to her country and she insisted that Pakistan must not be allowed to be Talibanized.
However, in the crucial phase of the election campaign even Bhutto had to be cautious. There was the danger that her opponents would exploit her proximity to Washington and to the globally unpopular President Bush. Her rival Sharif in particular, who had also returned from exile, made sure to keep a greater distance from the Americans.
In the final days before her death, it was no longer certain that the deal with Musharraf was holding. Instead of working toward power-sharing she was increasing her attacks on the president, who, as agreed, had given up his position as army chief and had begun his second presidential term as a civilian. And the president must have realized that Washington had started to look around for a new strong man -- a man to take over after Musharraf was gone.
Whether Pakistans president will now be able to bring together those forces intent, it would seem, on tearing the country apart; whether he will find success in combating the terror emanating from his country; whether he can knit together the ever-wider rips in the social fabric -- even his friends and allies have their doubts. Pessimists already see a failed state when they look at Pakistan. The see a kind of Somalia armed with nuclear weapons, a paradise for Jihadists in training. According to an August survey, Osama bin Laden could count on the support of 46 percent of Pakistanis; Musharrafs score was a mere 38 percent.
But there are signs of hope and indications of a budding civil society. Mass demonstrations have rarely looked as they do in todays Pakistan. The majority of those peacefully taking to the streets is not made up of furious opposition activists, outraged students or revolutionary workers. Rather, the streets of Pakistan are full of lawyers defending the constitution and of women demanding their civil rights.
The heroines of the protests march silently, carrying banners demanding their say in Pakistan. Secret service personnel and policemen, few of them in uniform, pull some of them out of the crowd and take them away. Many are placed under house arrest, some are taken to prison.
The Heavy Weight of Her Father's Work
The heroes of the protests carry posters demanding the immediate resignation of President Musharraf. From afar, the marches look like Wall Street out for a walk -- most of them wear black suits, white shirts and neckties. The regimes toughs tend to be less restrained with the lawyers than they are with the women: They are often covered in blood by the time they are bundled into the waiting police vans. Help us save Pakistan from the abyss, yelled one recently through a vans barred windows.
They arent going to give up. They will continue to demand that those judges and justices fired by Musharraf be reinstated, foremost among them the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. And they will continue to insist that media censorship be ended and that the independent television channels be allowed to go back on air.
Benazir Bhuttos long and difficult journey came to an end last Friday. Tens of thousands accompanied her on the last stage of that voyage -- on her way to the family grave in Gharhi Khuda Bakhsh near Lakarna, where she was buried next to her father. Her opponents Sharif and Musharraf elected to stay away from the event -- those present shouted anti-Musharraf and anti-American slogans. Security, this time, was extremely tight -- much tighter than one day earlier in Rawalpindi, at Bhuttos last ever campaign rally.
Bhutto made her last visit to her fathers grave soon after her return to Pakistan in October. She spread rose petals and bowed over the gravestone for a few minutes in silence, as though she suddenly felt the heavy weight of carrying on her fathers work.
She then took some time to write a few lines about her past, a kind of reckoning -- and one she, typically, made sure appeared in print. They were words of farewell, prophetic and poetic at the same time:
"I have led an unusual life. I have buried a father killed at age 50 and two brothers killed in the prime of their lives. I raised my children as a single mother when my husband was arrested and held for eight years without a conviction -- a hostage to my political career, she wrote recently in the Washington Post. I made my choice when the mantle of political leadership was thrust upon my shoulders after my father's murder. I did not shrink from responsibility then, and I will not shrink from it now."
By Erich Follath, Hans Hoyng, Daniel Steinvorth and Helen Zuber
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan