The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto could have ramifications that resonate throughout the world in the months that lie ahead. When all seemed to be calming down and good news was spreading, the suicidal maniac that took Bhutto's life could set off a series of events that threatens stabality from Pakistan to Iran to the United States.
The first of these is obvious: President Pervez Musharraf has major issues to deal with in Pakistan. With elections only a couple weeks away, the attack on Bhutto threatens to undermine any elections in the country. Nawaz Sharif, also a former prime minister and a political rival, has already announced his Muslim League party would boycott the elections and has called upon Musharraf to step down as president.
Unrest in Pakistan bodes poorly for regional stability. One of the key allies in the war against terror, political unrest could give remaining Taliban and Al-Qaida members in Pakistan the ability to organize and begin another major push in Afghanistan. Unrest in Pakistan also threatens the uneasy peace the country has with India. The border disputes between the two nuclear countries makes the United States/USSR "cold war" look downright quaint. A military confrontation between these two countries could be disasterous for the entire region.
The United States may be tested in Afghanistan if Taliban and Al-Qaida forces regain strength in Pakistan. Also, if the Pakistani government comes under heavy fire from Islamic extremists, the United States could come under heavy pressure to act in Pakistani borders to prevent a complete meltdown and collapse into an Islamic state.
Of course, that's looking at worst case scenarios. I'm cautiously hopeful that maybe some positive changes could come from the Bhutto tragedy. Perhaps the people of Pakistan will finally be fed up with the Islamic extremists they have been harboring in the country and will stand up and finally expel the opponents of freedom who have long ruled so many regions. Perhaps President Musharraf will use this as an opportunity to actually hold free and open elections in that country. Perhaps this will be the tragedy that ignites a people to standup against tyranny in all forms.
But that's probably just wishful thinking. Hopefully this doesn't mark the start of a very dangerous chapter in Pakistani history. I know that I, for one, will be watching the unfolding of events in Pakistan in 2008 with great interest because those events could dictate world policy for a generation.