Today's cold-blooded assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi has once again thrown Pakistan into political turmoil, less than two weeks before national elections. Thirty more people have died and 40 injured in the bomb blast after the assassin blew himself up. Millions of supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party are in a state of shock, disbelief and grief. But they are also angered by this murderous act by the forces of black counter-revolution.
Thousands have taken to the streets throughout Pakistan in protest at this outrage. People flocked to the Rawalpindi General hospital and have been chanting anti-Musharraf slogans, including describing him as a "dog". The street protests have also spread, with reports of demonstrations in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Multan, and Quetta. The Pakistan army has been put on ‘red alert' and an emergency meeting has been convened by Musharaff of top officials to decide the fate of the forthcoming election. There is a danger that emergency rule will be re-imposed.
Who benefited from this murder? Those behind the killing clearly wanted to prevent the victory of the PPP on 8th January. They are the Pakistani ruling elite, which has brought the country to ruin. The fact that the assassin was able to shoot Benazir at close quarter after passing through several levels of security checks, indicate the involvement of sections of the security forces. Once again the assassination points to the Islamic fundamentalists linked to al-Queda, who have close links with the security forces (ISI) and have stepped up their attacks, especially since the storming of the Red Mosque in July. Already this year, nearly 1,000 people have been killed by suicide and armed attacks.
This whole situation underlines the counter-revolutionary role of fundamentalism, which despite its demagogy, carries the banner of black reaction, and is linked by a thousand threads to the ruling elites of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere.
On Benazir's return on 18th October, the first assassination attack came at a mass rally the following day, claiming 140 deaths and 500 injured. Bhutto pointed her finger at the Islamic groups for the bloody attack. During the election campaign, attacks have continued, most notably in Peshwar and Islamabad. Today, minutes before to Benazir's murder, a simultaneous attack resulted in four people being shot dead at an election rally of Naswar Shariff in Islamabad.
The West's plans and calculations of "managed transition" are in complete disarray. The American imperialists had supported General Mushariff, but this role had been discredited. They were hoping that a "conconciliation" would take place between him and Benazir. They were hoping that Benazir would pursue their interests. However, behind Benazir and the PPP stood the millions of workers and peasants who were yearning for fundamental change.
"We stand with the people in Pakistan in the struggle against the forces of terror and extremism," said George Bush. But the plans of Washington have now gone up in smoke. It was their actions (the so-called war on terror) which have built up the fundamentalists throughout the region. They initially financed and armed al-Qaeda and their supporters, which has now fallen to the drug barons and secret services to continue. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have added to the chaos. The imperialists are in uncharted waters. The UN security council has even called an emergency session to discuss the assassination. There is a note of alarm in their statements, fearing that the region could spiral out of control.
The campaign to postpone the elections is an attempt to block these pressures welling up in Pakistan for revolutionary change. Despite Musharrif's calls for calm, shops and businesses have been closed and demonstrators have taken to the streets across Pakistan. Police cars and other vehicles have been set alight. It is a spontaneous protest against the counter-revolution. It is defiance against those responsible for the attack and the beginning of a fight back by the masses.
Whatever the immediate outcome, including the likely postponement of the national elections, the masses will seek to push the PPP into power at the earliest possible moment. They will seek the road of fundamental socialist change by demanding that the PPP return to its revolutionary roots as the only way forward. The death of Benazir Bhutto, despite the initial shock, will act as a spur to the further radicalization the party and the millions that follow it throughout Pakistan. The assassination will certainly not break the will of the masses to change society. It will harden their determination.