Bhutto assassination; Tankleff free on bail...

Behind The News
December 27, 2007 12:07:18 PM PST
Democracy in Pakistan. For many it seemed like something of an oxymoron. But American taxpayers have spent billions of dollars betting on it; so far the bet's been lost. And today's assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is yet another blow to Pakistan's effort, no matter how feeble, to achieve democracy.

We're going to spend a lot of time analyzing what the assassination means for Pakistan, and for the U.S. relationship with that country, and for Pakistan's elections next week. We'll talk to the Pakistani population in New York City -- the biggest in the country, and now estimated at about 100,000 -- up from 34,000 in 2000 and 13,000 in 1990.

We'll do all that - and it's important -- for us, for Pakistan, for world peace.

But all the discussion won't take away from the basic facts of what's happened: It's just plain sad and tragic. Ms. Bhutto was an extremely complicated woman. Educated at Harvard, clearly loved her country -- a country that lived through her father's assassination as Prime Minister, a country that she betrayed with a less than scrupulous time in office, a country she returned to after years in exile, despite knowing that there was a good probability she would be assassinated.

It's just plain sad and tragic.

We'll have the latest on the assassination, tonight at 11. The important questions include the political fallout -- it is likely at least in the short run to affect the U.S. Presidential campaigns - what it means for the war on terror, and plans for Bhutto's funeral.

Also at 11, Martin Tankleff is a free man tonight, although with an asterisk. He still may be re-tried for murdering his parents in their Long Island home back in 1988 -- a crime he has steadfastedly insisted he did not commit.

I talked at length in this space yesterday about the apparent injustices in the Tankleff case -- the forced confession of the then-17 year old, the apparent relationship -- and therefore the inherent conflict of interest that existed between the lead detective who forced the confession and the man Tankleff believes actually killed his father. You'll hear from Tankleff tonight, on his first night out of prison since 1990.

And there's a not-so-good item about your taxes tonight: More than 3 million people are going to wait until February to get their tax refunds. And they can thank Congress for it. The House voted late on the effort to fix the alternative minimum tax. And because of that, the IRS won't start processing many tax forms until the second month of the year -- thereby delaying potential refunds for millions of people. Don't expect a letter of apology.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Marvell Scott (in for Scott Clark) with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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