IT’S BEEN ten years since Pakistan suffered one of the worst tragedies in its history. Benazir Bhutto, a much-loved political figure and a Pakistani leader recognized and respected internationally, was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi. Her killing remains a deeply shocking event, even for a country with a history of cold-blooded murders, terrorist incidents, and executions.
Indeed, there are complicated aspects to Benazir’s legacy: her two stints as prime minister in the 90s were marred by financial scandal and a relatively poor governance record. But there’s hardly any doubt about her undeniable commitment to defending and advancing the democratic order in Pakistan—a mission of a lifetime. After her charismatic father who fought for democracy throughout his life, Benazir ranks at the very top of democratic leaders in Pakistan’s political history.
But Pakistan is struggling to live up to her democratic legacy. While a competitive and free and fair election next year could help put the democratic transition back on track, institutional disparities and infighting among the political class may jeopardize the democratic order. Indeed, the incapacity and perhaps reluctance of the political class to safeguard democratic institutions against infringement by other institutions remains an enormous challenge. Perhaps the 10th anniversary of Benazir’s assassination could be a moment for political introspection.
If the broader political class has disappointed, the PPP has practically betrayed Benazir’s democratic legacy. The electoral failure of the PPP outside its stronghold in Sindh, where there is little organized political opposition to the party, has been appalling and is perhaps irreparable. Consequently, there is no political party today that can rightfully claim to have a major presence across the provinces and regions and in both urban and rural Pakistan. Can the PPP regroup and reorganize? Whether the answer is a yes or no, the fact is Benazir Bhutto is being sorely missed.