I’ve been trying to figure out what would be an accurate American parallel to the assassination of Ms. Bhutto in Pakistan. The situation over there is intensely complicated, with Musharraf having just recently called for general elections following a period of emergency rule. This was in no doubt influenced by US foreign pressure, of which Bhutto’s return to her country was part. As the head of one of the two main political parties in Pakistan, Ms. Bhutto represented not only the US’s hopes to temper Musharraf’s policies, but also as the hopes of millions of Pakistani’s that she would be able to effect change for the better.
Is her death then an amalgam the assassination of MLK and John F. Kennedy? On par with the murder of Gandhi and Lincoln? I don’t think so; in December 1988 she was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, only to be dismissed two years later by the President on charges of nepotism, corruption, and behavior in contravention of the law and Constitution. These charges were upheld by the Supreme Court, and though her party regained power a few years later, she was barred from becoming Prime Minister once more and placed under house arrest, Her husband imprisoned while trying to flee the county, prompting her to escape to Europe to escape a similar fate. She remained in London to avoid detention, and it was only after General Musharraf agreed to an American-brokered amnesty that was she allowed to return.
Perhaps, given the manner in which she flaunted the law and her being the heiress to a political dynasty, the American figure she most resembles is George W. Bush. In appearance and character they seem polar opposites, but consider the similarities: both are/were descended from previous national leaders, both are/were incredibly wealthy, both broke the laws of their country and acted against the Constitution (though Bush will most likely not be charged with war crimes and the breaking of the law as he should be). Both were originally seen as potential saviors, willing to broker change in what was seen by many as a decadent government.
To make the parallel more accurate Bush would have to leave office in disgrace, flee abroad, and then return fifteen years from now to challenge a successor who’s rule was resented by the public and had come to be seen as heavy handed and opprobrious. Which is where, of course, the parallel breaks down; Bush is not a man of vision, vaulting ambition and dedication to his country; rather, he is an opportunist surrounded by coldly ambitious men, and I doubt he would seek the spotlight again even if presented the opportunity following the grilling he’s received these past few years.
Clearly I am missing many nuances here and perhaps am doing gross disservice to the figures involved, but this is my attempt to contextualize what has just occurred in Pakistan. Any dissenting opinions are welcome!