The first issue is Pakistan’s nuclear potential; although this is the most pressing issue, it is probably the least worrying as the military is in control of Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. The second issue is the strength of the radical Islamists, and finally the question of elections and democratisation in Pakistan.
In August 2008, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry issued a statement dismissing any concern that the international community may have in relation to the country’s nuclear facility. It appears that the American assessment is that the US has full knowledge of where Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are located.
There is increasing evidence of rising division in Pakistan with the radical Islamists seeking to assert their ideas on the rest of the country. It became visible last year with the Red Mosque incident, when a group of radical Islamists took over a mosque in the capital Islamabad.
It was followed most recently with Mullah Fazullah, a radical Islamist linked to the Taliban-inspired Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws (Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi), which has been engaged in bitter fighting with around 3,000 Pakistani troops. There has also been bitter fighting between Pakistani troops and Taliban backed up tribal forces in the tribal belt of Pakistan, especially Waziristan.
The final issue that arises from the assassination is the question of democracy and the elections. This raises a number of important questions. The first is the election scheduled for January 8, 2008. It seems improbable that the elections will be held on this date. After all, Pakistan must enter a period of national mourning, and Benazir will, in all probability, receive a state funeral with dignitaries arriving from all over the world.
It would be interesting to see who will come from the United States, due to the grave security threat associated with Pakistan. Closely linked to this is the position of Perverz Musharraf and Nawaz Shariff.
Shariff is banned from contesting the elections due to the corruption charges that surround his reputation, whilst there is a significant animosity in Pakistan towards Musharraf and the manner in which he retained the presidency.
Ultimately the main question is what will happen in Pakistan after the country comes to term with the death of Bhutto, a best case scenario would unfold if the political leaders and the military deal with the threat of radical Islam. A worse case scenario is continued disagreements between Pakistan’s leaders allowing radical Islam to continue its march towards the center.
Dr. Issac Kfir is lecturer of International relations at IDC Herzliya