Benazir Bhutto reportedly killed

BENAZIR BHUTTO REPORTEDLY KILLED….Stunning news out of Pakistan this morning:

Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide bombing that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, a party aide and a military official said.

“At 6:16 p.m. she expired,” said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto’s party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital where she was taken after the attack.

A senior military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, confirmed that Bhutto had died.

Widespread unrest in Pakistan is practically inevitable, and Bhutto supporters outside the hospital where she was treated began chanting “Dog, Musharraf, dog,” in reference to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

Musharraf, of course, had promised free parliamentary elections next month, coinciding with the end of his “emergency rule,” though, given Bhutto’s reported assassination, the country may be poised to endure additional turmoil.

Update: Spencer Ackerman spoke with NYU’s Barnett Rubin, a South Asia expert.

Bhutto’s assassination presents an opportunity for Musharraf. “It’s very possible Musharraf will declare [another] state of emergency and postpone the elections,” Rubin continues. “That will confirm in many people’s minds the idea that the military is behind” the assassination. For it’s part, the U.S. will likely “be scrambling to say the election either needs to be held as planned or postponed rather than canceled, but Musharraf is in a position to preempt that.”

As a result, Rubin says, U.S. strategy is “in tatters.”

Ackerman adds, “The most likely culprit is the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda. But it’s not exactly an event met with tears by the Pakistani military, which thoroughly controls the government and the economy.”