Benazir Bhutto assassinated
Just moments after this picture was taken, a gunman shot Benazir Bhutto in the head and neck, and then detonated a bomb filled with lead shrapnel, killing a further 20. She was a woman of immense personal courage and bravery, who returned to Pakistan just weeks ago Knowing full well that there were Islamist elements there who wanted her dead. Yet still she made speeches, wrote articles, campaigned, and talked daily with the ordinary people, risking everything to restore democracy to Pakistan.
Cranmer isn’t going to wax lyrical about how wonderful she was, because in reality she was as corrupt as any Pakistani politician who plundered millions from some of her nation’s poorest. She had a villa in Dubai, a house in London, and many millions in the bank.
But it is what she represented that is important, for the world has lost a crusader for democracy; a staunch proponent of moderate Islamic values against the ‘Islamo-fascism’ which is on the ascendancy all over the world. She was concerned to build a Pakistan of secular liberal values - equal rights and religious freedom - not just for Muslims, but for Christians, Hindus and Sikhs as well. Her vision for Pakistan was akin to that of Ghandi’s India.
Yet the Islamists finally got her. Her gender offended, her liberal values offended, her closeness to ‘the West’ offended, her support for democracy offended. In short, she represented and consorted with everything they despise. Now she has been despatched to meet her maker, the Islamist cause to frustrate democracy in Pakistan is very much furthered.
But why was she not better protected? She had discussed her security with (then) General Musharraf, and he knew there had been previous attempts on her life, but still she was in a car without protective screens and no armed guard. It was, in truth, only a matter of time before a suicide bomber managed to get close enough.
While the British Government and the Opposition were united in the concern for the situation in Pakistan, cautiously making measured and moderate demands for the restoration of democracy and stability, the Conservative candidate for Gillingham went a few steps further, even calling for revolution. Cranmer warned at the time what it would lead to, but the sadness for Atta-Ur-Rehman Chisti is that ultimately it was his friend and leader who was the tragic victim, not Mr Musharraf.
Pakistan is fraught with political, religious and sociological difficulties. It is plagued by a terrorism which is steeped in Islamism, and acquiring control of the nuclear arsenal has long been an Al-Q’aeda objective. And now Pakistan stands on the brink of the revolution demanded by Mr Chisti, with a situation that is deteriorating rapidly towards greater chaos and an inexorable instability.
It is important now for the world to support Mr Musharraf as he attempts to steer his country from the brink of civil war. He has been a staunch ally in the ‘war on terror’ and is fully versed in the implications of an ascendant global religio-political Islam. If Islamism is defeated in Pakistan, there is hope for defeating it in the world. It is therefore in the interests of Britain and the world to support him at this time. Benazir Bhutto may have been killed by terrorists, but the terrorists must not be allowed to kill democracy - in Pakistan or anywhere else.