Lose-lose-win for Musharraf? He may well now extend emergency rule, but at what cost? DJ Drummond:

The government of President Musharraf is in a state of chaos. At best, he will be harshly blamed for not protecting Bhutto (there was an earlier attempt to kill Bhutto in October which left 140 dead, but security for Bhutto was not improved), and at present his possible complicity in the murder is widely suspected and in some places assumed. There has as yet been no official statement from U.S. officials; it must be presumed that the assassination has pre-empted normal business.

Bhutto was not perfect by any means: corrupt and self-serving. But given all the alternatives, it's a crushing blow:

Her personal failing undermined, but did not eradicate, the principles she stood for within Pakistan, which have been characterized by Brookings scholar Stephen Cohen as "progressive social and economic policies; accommodation with India; good relations with all of the major powers (including the United States); gender empowerment; and a commitment to parliamentary democracy and a free press."

In short, Cohen's view was that a Bhutto election was the foundation necessary for the country to address those who would tear it apart into further spiraling violence.

Today, Pakistan lurches one step closer towards that frightening outcome. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, like too many other assassinations before it, has just changed history, and not for the better.

Blake Hounshell expresses my own response thus:

I'm in shock, and yet not altogether surprised.

What we are witnessing in the Islamic world is something we should learn to be somewhat reticent about. There is so much we do not know - and what we do know suggests a period of extreme and dangerous instability we will have only limited capacity to affect, if at all. A Bhutto deal with Musharraf meant a rational, sane option for Pakistan to Western diplomatic minds. But this world is a darker, more irrational place than we know. And these convulsions will surely continue. It may be that our attempt to fix the situation has only made it worse. Which would not be the first time, of course.

(Photo: John Moore/Getty.)

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