Czech political leaders condemn assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Photo: CTK

The assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on Thursday sent shockwaves around the world and raised widespread concern for the fate of democracy in the country. Daniela Lazarova sums up the reactions in Prague.

Photo: CTK
As news of the violence in Rawalpindi spread, Czech political leaders joined in the condemnation of Benazir Bhutto’s murder, calling it a cowardly, barbaric act and expressing the hope that the democratic forces in Pakistan would prove strong enough to sustain the blow. President Vaclav Klaus, who had met the Pakistani opposition leader in person a few years ago, called her murder “an abominable attack against the very foundations of human civilization”. Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova said Benazir Bhutto’s violent death was a bad blow for her homeland and the world.

Benazir Bhutto,  photo: CTK
“We are shocked by this terrorist act. Benazir Bhutto was a very important politician especially during the 1990s. We hope that her killing will not undermine the democratic process in Pakistan because after her return to her homeland she was expected to be part of it.”

Amidst escalating violence in Pakistan in the wake of the tragedy, world leaders are urging the country not to be deflected from the road to democracy and stressing the importance of free and fair elections. However Asia-watchers believe that under the circumstances that will not be easy. Milan Slezak of Czech Radio’s foreign affairs department says Benazir Bhutto’s murder may prove to be a big set-back for democracy in Pakistan:

“As I see it, the elections will have to be postponed and President Musharraf will almost certainly introduce a state of emergency or something of the kind under a different name. Unfortunately these developments are grist to the mill of the former general – now president – because they appear to support his view that Pakistan is not a country that can be governed purely by democratic means.”

Photo: CTK
Fear of turmoil in Pakistan is fuelled by the fact that it is a nuclear-armed country. So how serious a threat is that to the world? Milan Slezak once again:

“As far as I know there are a number of safety guarantees as regards the country’s nuclear potential. The different components are stored in different places and are guarded by Panjabi soldiers, which is significant as they are firmly opposed to Islamic extremism and that makes them reliable in this respect. The question of course is what is actually happening in the country now and whether President Musharraf is still fully in control.”