BENAZIR BHUTTO wasn't a saint. Like most politicians in the world, she was deeply flawed. Corruption and other problems dogged her during her two terms as prime minister of one of the world's most strategically important nations, Pakistan.

But in the end, she became a hero . . . and a martyr for democracy. As the heiress of a wealthy family, she could have lived a comfortable life in exile anywhere in the globe. Instead, knowing that her life would be in danger, she chose to return to Pakistan to fight for democracy and against dictatorial rule by ruler Pervez Musharraf.

When her motorcade was attacked upon her return by a suicide bomber, she kept going, and when government troops even set up camp inside her house to keep her under arrest, she still pressed forward.

That brave stand cost Benazir Bhutto her life yesterday, when she was assassinated in a suicide bombing that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally.

In dying as she did, Bhutto - the first woman to be elected leader of a Muslim country - adds to her family's terrible legacy: her father, Zulfi-kar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistan People's Party, was executed in 1979; one brother was possibly poisoned in 1980; another was killed in 1996.

The potential for chaos in the region and the world - starting today

- is enormous. A time will come very soon to talk about how this outrage could have happened, and about America's horrible gamble on the anti-democratic rule of ex-general Musharraf. But that time is not today.

Today is a day to mourn, not just Benazir Bhutto, but democracy. *