Assassination Alters Political History

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The history of Pakistan was altered Thursday following the assassination of former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. At his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush acknowledges the courage of Bhutto, saying she refused to let dictators designate the course of her country.

But White House correspondent Don Gonyea says Bush and Bhutto never met. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush reached out to Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff, even though he was a military leader. The administration thought his support was critical in going after terrorists and that relationship made Bush keep Bhutto at arm's length.

Ambassador Teresita Schaffer, who was ambassador to Sri Lanka and a deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, says when the U.S. gave priority to Musharaff, Pakistan's democracy agenda took a back seat. As his popularity waned over the last year, the administration sought to anchor Musharaff to a non-religious party ally and turned to Bhutto.

Schaffer says it's uncertain whether the Jan. 8 elections will go forward. Rioting following Bhutto's assassination could lead to a massive crackdown by the army. But it could also be a trigger for political change that would lead to a real election.

Steve Inskeep speaks with Teresita Schaffer and Don Gonyea.

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