Pakistani media fears derailment of democratic process

Islamabad, Dec 28 | Updated: Dec 29 2007, 05:39am hrs
Pakistani media on Friday saw former Premier Benazir Bhuttos assassination as a clear attempt to derail the democratic process amid speculation that it might give beleaguered President Pervez Musharraf a reason to postpone the January eight parliamentary elections.

Bhutto was killed yesterday when gunmen opened fire at her vehicle just before a suicide bomber blew himself up at an election rally addressed by her in Rawalpindi, killing more than 20 people and injuring several others.

Leading newspapers pointed out that the death of the 54-year-old charismatic opposition Pakistan Peoples Party leader would not only change the politics of the Islamic nation but also demoralise all progressive elements and weaken the federation with general elections slated for next month.Stating that the impact of Bhuttos assassination is going be immense on the national psyche which will be apparent in the weeks to come, The News said her death throws the entire political edifice, the painfully excruciating march of the country towards a democratic polity, the carefully crafted plan for a peaceful transfer of power to an elected leadership up into turbulent smoke and bloody dust. How could this have been the third phase of Pervez Musharrafs transition to democracy How can this be democracy in which a twice-Prime Minister of the country is killed during a peaceful electoral campaign in a garrison town the daily questioned.

The newspaper also said that Bhutto was possibly right in pointing fingers at the retired elements in the state intelligence agencies, those who had themselves turned into religious fanatics or supporters of violent extremism, saying that they were after her because she supported a moderate and liberal Pakistan. Blaming Pakistan for Bhuttos assassination, The News also said, It now appears that while shes deeply concerned about the killers on the loose, and did whatever she could to protect herself, the state which was supposed to provide her protection as a citizen failed miserably.Similarly, another leading daily, the Dawn hinted that her death would derail the entire process of Pakistan returning to an elected democratic rule, especially by acoalition of moderate and liberal leaders who could confront the growing menace of religious extremism and fanaticism.In its editorial, the daily also said, Pakistan has been going through one of its worst political and constitutional crises since March, but the Presidents decision to shed his uniform, the return of the exiled ex-Prime Ministers, and the on-going campaigning have not given Pakistan even a semblance of normality.

It is only when the election is over; all parties accept the results, and an elected government takes over that one can expect Islamabad to take up foreign policy issues that have been on hold for long, the newspaper said.