Ahmed Rashid, writing from Pakistan told Der Spiegel there were rumors circulating concerning who was behind the bombings at Benazir Bhutto’s return which left at least 120 dead. Although, she was told by the nation’s security there was a risk of violence if she had an open parade, Bhutto insisted on showing herself to adoring crowds. “She had to show the whole country that she had many supporters and followers,” says Rashid. She was also sending a message to President Musharraf that she had greater popularity among the masses of Pakistanis. Rashid says it is unclear who was behind the bombings, but “there is speculation that the attack was not carried out by Islamists, but by certain groups within the regime who don’t want Bhutto in the country.” Although over 20,000 soldiers were sent to protect the parade, many of them came from the provinces where there is intense dislike of Bhutto.
The bombings undoubtedly will impact the election process. Many people will avoid attending political events fearing their lives might be endangered. This means less open political discussion in Pakistan. An outside observer might raise a simple question: who benefits by lack of political discussion? President Musharraf is not the most popular person to many Pakistanis and he most probably benefits by reducing opportunities for open and frank discussion.