Pakistan native Farhat Haq, chairwoman of the college's political science department, sees comparisons to America's tumultuous 1960s.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday will rival in its global impact the slayings of John F. Kennedy, his brother, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.
That’s what Farhat Haq, a Pakistan native and chairwoman of the political science department at Monmouth College, thought after hearing the news of Bhutto’s death, comparing it and the current political climate in her home country to America’s tumultuous 1960s.
"I had disagreements with (Bhutto) in terms of her tactics, but I think we shared the same goal in the long run, which is the restoration of democracy in Pakistan," Haq said. "My heart is very heavy. … It’s a devastating day."
Haq, however, also found the reaction of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf promising, despite her disdain for his recent suspension of the country’s constitution and declaration of military rule.
"For President Musharraf to declare three days of mourning I think was a very good move," she said. "The big question now will be what happens to the elections."
Bhutto returned to Pakistan after nearly a decade of self-exile in October to lead the country’s opposition party in the Jan. 8 elections, in the hopes of also returning to the post of prime minister, which she previously occupied twice in the late 1980s and mid-1990s.
Her return to power also would have marked the return of a dynasty — Bhutto’s father, the former president and prime minister of Pakistan, was executed after a military coup in 1977.
"Her assassination has really sort of highlighted the uncertainty the country is going through right now," Haq said. "It’s going to be too quick a turnaround for a successor to be named."
And that type of instability in one of the United States’ allies in the so-called War on Terror isn’t good news for anyone, Haq added.
"Now, some sort of resolution (in Pakistan) has to come about, or it’s going to be chaos and civil war," she said. "And 9-11 has shown us (in the United States) that we can no longer be protected by oceans like we used to be. We no longer have that luxury."
John Elias, a Peoria attorney who attended Oxford University in England with Bhutto in the mid-1970s, also saw his former classmate — whom he and others at the school commonly referred to as "Benky" — as the person who would best protect U.S. interests in the region.
"Politics was in her blood," he said. "She was the best person we could have had there because she loved democracy."
Reach Journal Star reporter Matt Buedel at (309) 686-3154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.