Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was murdered today in a brutal suicide bomb attack that also claimed the lives of at least 20 of her supporters.
Her death is certain to further destabilise a country that is already being torn apart by the forces unleashed by George Bush's 'war on terror'.
Bhutto had recently returned to Pakistan as part of a US-sponsored plan to shore up the rule of Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president and former army chief – and a key regional ally of Bush.
Bush was swift to condemn Bhutto's assassination, but many in Pakistan are already pointing the finger of blame at him.
'The military and their American masters have to take some of the blame for this,' said Munib Anwar from the Pakistan Lawyers Action Committee. 'They brought these terrorists into Pakistan.'
Benazir Bhutto is not the first in her family to die a violent death. Her father, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by a previous US-supported military dictatorship. Two of her brothers also died in mysterious circumstances.
But imperialism lies at the heart of the brutality of Pakistan's politics. The country has been bathed in blood ever since it was founded by the British partition of India in 1947.
And the tragic circumstances of Benazir Bhutto's death should not detract from the fact that she had made her peace with imperialism and was a loud supporter of Bush's murderous 'war on terror'.
Her radical days were long behind her and many ordinary people in Pakistan rightly saw her as corrupt and reliant on the support of Western powers.
As yet no organisation has claimed responsibility for Bhutto's murder. But suspicions are bound to fall on Islamist elements of Musharraf's administration who are sympathetic to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
These elements, clustered around Pakistan's military and security services, were once allies of the US but fell out with the White House during the prolonged occupation of Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001.
The state of emergency declared at the beginning of November was a desperate attempt to head off opposition to Musharraf's rule. It was a move that embarrassed the US government – which had hoped for a compromise deal between Musharraf and Bhutto – without managing to pacify the elements sympathetic to the Taliban within the military's own ranks.
Whatever develops now, no political solution based on compromise with US imperialism and its regional allies can offer anything other than more bloodshed and misery.
The real opposition to Musharraf's dictatorship and Bush's war does not lie in these quarters. It is the civil rights movement that rose up across the country this year that offers the best political hope for the people of Pakistan.
That movement has been organised independently of all the corrupt and discredited political parties of Pakistan.