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Pakistan in the Spotlight

January 3, 2008
Weekly Columns

America's leaders understand that securing a strong and reliable relationship with Pakistan is a critical foreign policy goal. Global terrorism is thriving along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, radical Islamic practices are surging in the area, and most recently, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. It is evident that U.S.-Pakistani diplomatic relations have become more important than ever to ensuring the success of the War on Terror and protecting our country's national security.

Last week's telling act of terror by a suicide bomber in Pakistan resulted in the death of Benazir Bhutto and killed additional innocent bystanders. This was not the first indication of political unrest in Pakistan towards Bhutto though. After eight years of political exile, Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October, where she narrowly escaped death at her homecoming parade when it was attacked by terrorists. Now, Bhutto's death represents a changing political tide in Pakistan, a country that is a critical ally to the U.S. As the upcoming Pakistan parliamentary election gets closer, the U.S. must continue to watch the situation in Pakistan to ensure that the country moves forward with its democratic elections and does not fall prey to further attacks by extremists.

Pakistani citizens, especially, mourned the lost of Bhutto this week. She was an enlightened leader with remarkable courage who was fighting to secure the liberties that a truly democratic system could provide her people. Bhutto was leading the polls and considered by many the likely victor of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Now, following her untimely death, the United States is looking to other Pakistanis who will work with the U.S. to see sustainable democracy and freedom brought to Pakistan.

Prior to Bhutto's death, Pakistan has made headlines for controversies surrounding current President Pervez Musharraf. In November he was under criticism for declaring a state of emergency after violent civil unrest in Pakistan, a move that coincided with a decision pending in Pakistan's Supreme Court concerning the legitimacy of Musharraf's reelection to power. He was serving as both President of Pakistan and chief of the nation's Army, but recently turned over his role as head of the military. Despite these instances, Musharraf has acted as an ally to the U.S. by standing up against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Still, Bhutto's death has clearly shocked the leaders of free nations across the world. It has brought attention to the plight of Pakistan's people to secure a free election process and a stable democratic form of government. Pakistan's complicated political issues deserve the world's attention, but even in diplomatic efforts the U.S. must proceed with caution on all fronts. For now our country will continue to work diplomatically with Musharraf and other Pakistani leaders to see stability brought to the country.