I've been in Canada with my family for approximately a week, and today I woke up to overhearing my parents talking about the death of Benazir Bhutto, which was enough to get me out of bed and wide awake. It is next to impossible, these days, to tell who in Pakistan is responsible for what, although that's nothing new.
I was in Pakistan in the general vicinity of a year ago. There was political turmoil then as now, though nothing so dramatic as the assassination of a major leader, but for most people life goes on. Pakistan is no Iraq, and people know how to live even with a certain amount of background political chaos.
I have been in Pakistan during an assassination however, depending on how conspiracy-minded you are, which in the case of the average Pakistani, is very. I was with my mother visiting my grandfather, and we were in the Pakistani International Airlines planetarium watching whatever sort of educational show that Karachi planetarium had on---I can't remember now. Ten minutes in, the show abruptly cut out, and the lights came on. The planetarium manager walked in to tell us the show had been cancelled, because Gen. Zia ul-Huq, the head honcho of the previous dictatorial regime---who was in some ways far worse for Pakistan than Musharraf has been---had died in a plane crash. Thereafter proceeded days of televised prayer and mourning. Never had there been so many empty and false declarations of public grief.
His predecessor: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whom he had executed. His successor: Benazir Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's daughter.
As a leader, General Zia ul-Huq was missed by few, regardless of whether or not his death was an accident. I will not say that Bhutto père was a necessarily a great leader---there are lots of reasons to think that he was not, including that fact that some of his power stemmed from the lack of needed land reform in Pakistan---but he was missed, if only that his death heralded yet another discontinuity in the Pakistani republic. Bhutto fille died today; though some people say that it is not auspicious or polite to talk ill of the very recently deceased, I will say that she was not good for the country either, and if you believe the rumours---which is up to you in Pakistan---neither was she particularly shy of extrajudicial violence herself.
Neither is Musharraf, of course, and in her defense, she would have had a veneer of legitimacy that he can never have. It's not clear whether he had a hand in her death, though at the moment, I think it is unlikely, breaking the symmetry with their predecessors. And he may yet share her fate, turning this triangle into a square.
But now pair of ghosts that has haunted Pakistani politics for decades has become a trio, father and father's killer and daughter. And what this means for ordinary life in Pakistan in the near future: probably not all that much. Life has gone on and will go on for what is a chaotic and poor society, but also a consumer society quite recognizable at some level to Westerners.