Pakistan is not a happy country. Nor is it likely to become any more content or more settled following the death of the Prime Minister's estranged brother, Murtaza, in a shootout with police. The family has not exactly made a show of rallying around or making up its old differences in the wake of the killing, despite Benazir Bhutto's meetings with her mother and sister-in-law. Opposition voices, both from Murtaza's breakaway faction of the ruling Pakistan People's Party and from the main parties, have accused the Government of creating a situation where political violence is the order of the day or have laid the blame directly at the door of Ms Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari. They may well be innocent. Even for power-hungry infighters like the Bhuttos, it is a giant step from feuding and occasionally locking each other up for short periods to politically motivated fratricide. But the accusation that the Bhuttos, including Murtaza, have fomented an atmosphere of political intimidation and violence where murder is a tool of day-to-day government will not be so easily shrugged off. Not all of this is the Prime Minister's fault. Ms Bhutto did not inherit a country at peace with itself. Decades of corrupt and ruthless military rule, not least by the Government that deposed her own father in a coup and then hanged him, had left their mark. The war in Afghanistan produced a legacy of lawlessness, and a country awash with drugs and guns. The withdrawal of United States support over alleged weapons guidance systems and nuclear technology purchases from China have weakened the country politically and economically. But from the start Ms Bhutto failed to live up to the high expectations of the people, particularly the women, who had voted her into power. Not only was she unable to introduce any political or social reforms because of military resistance; she also became determined to hang on to power for its own sake. On top of that, her dead brother alleged that her husband was the 'king of corruption' and accused his own sister of protecting him. Even if such personal corruption allegations are untrue, the Prime Minister has presided over a descent into national anarchy and violence where all human decencies have been set aside by all parties in the name of power. Meanwhile, the economy is on its knees as Ms Bhutto calls on the International Monetary Fund to resume disbursements of a stalled loan and the opposition encourages paralysing strikes to protest at her fiscal policies. Under her rule, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims has grown unchecked. The Government is at war with the party representing the Urdu speaking immigrants who fled north from India after partition in 1947. Political bloodshed is endemic. Law and order have virtually broken down, and its very guardians - the police - are increasingly seen by the Government's opponents as among the biggest and most dangerous killers. For their part, the police routinely blame political deaths on gun battles started by opposition members attempting to resist arrest. Most of the victims, including Murtaza's group, tend to be heavily armed, so this may well be happening. In the latest incident, Murtaza's bodyguards were said to have fired first before police shot them. But, given the frequency with which the police tend to make such statements and the fact that Murtaza hit a police security cordon hours after giving a press conference at which he accused the force of setting off bombs to frame him, it does not need a conspiracy theorist to wonder if the official account is really the whole story. Pakistan does have one institutional advantage. Like India, it has a judiciary which at times has shown itself determined to rise above the skulduggery of corrupt and self-serving politicians and to uphold the law. It is a healthy sign that President Farooq Leghari, normally one of the Prime Minister's closest allies, has chosen this moment to send a formal request to the Supreme Court for an opinion on whether Ms Bhutto has the right to impose her choice of judges on him. Since it is Leghari, not she, who has the constitutional duty of appointment, that is a question of major political significance. If there is any chance that the rule of law could once again be restored in Pakistan, the brief moment of shock and mourning over the violent death of yet another Bhutto might just be the opportunity to set about it. Could this be a chance for President Leghari and Ms Bhutto herself to rise above the fray and set their nation on a less self-destructive course?