Skip to main content

The Assassination of Bhutto: Why It's Very Bad News

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Moments after former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's horrific assassination was announced, equities futures began to move downward. People at trading desks immediately began to guess what this would mean across a variety of markets. We started getting e-mails from traders, market watchers and even a few readers who are in Pakistan now.
Reminders that we live in an unpredictable and dangerous world tend to unsettle equities markets, so the moves in the major indexes that followed were, well, highly predictable. But some readers wanted to know why this assassination should be viewed as bad news. It sounds cold hearted and ill-mannered to mention it but isn't it possible that the death of the opposition leader in Pakistan could stabilize the country by eliminating a challenger to Pervez Musharraf? Isn't Musharraf our man over there? As one reader put it, shouldn't this be up arrow news?
The reason it's terrible news is that Bhutto was actually a source of stability for the country. She was a reasonable and relatively US-friendly alternative to Musharraf. With her out of the picture, it's unclear what direction the opposition to Musharraf will take. But what is clear is that the opposition will most likely strengthen and act with a greater sense of urgency. The world is slightly more dangerous this afternoon than it was when we went to bed last night.