( AFP ) - Paying tribute to " Pakistan's People's Princess", the British press insisted on Friday that Benazir Bhutto's murder must not threaten upcoming elections in the south Asian nation.
Former Pakistan premier and opposition leader Bhutto was shot in the neck by a suicide bomber who then blew himself up, killing at least 20 people, as she was leaving a campaign rally in the northern city of Rawalpindi Thursday.
The attack sparked a wave of anger in cities across the country as mobs went on the rampage, leaving 10 people dead and dozens wounded. World leaders appealed for calm and warned that extremists must not be allowed to destablise the nuclear-armed nation before January 8 general elections.
Bhutto was educated at Britain's Oxford University -- where she was the first Asian woman to be elected president of the prestigious Oxford Union debating society -- and lived here for nearly a decade in the years that followed.
One British newspaper said she had "charisma and courage on an extraordinary scale" while a columnist in another dubbed her " Pakistan's People's Princess" -- a reference to the late princess Diana, who was similarly described after her death.
The Sun tabloid wrote in its editorial that "the enormity of this atrocity should not be under-estimated" and said next month's elections were "plainly now in peril."
"But (President Pervez) Musharraf must not scrap the election entirely and reimpose martial law. The resulting political vacuum and inevitable violence would empower the terrorists yet further.
" Pakistan's fragile hopes for democracy may have died yesterday. But Bhutto's ideals must now be resurrected, for the sake of her beloved nation -- and the wider world."
Meanwhile, The Times described Bhutto's assassination as "the nightmare scenario" and said that her death may "discourage others entering politics."
"The full restoration of democracy sooner rather than later has to be Ms Bhutto's final legacy," the paper said in its editorial.
"Ms Bhutto's murder was designed to destroy Pakistan's right to choose. To honour her memory Pakistan must show that democracy will always triumph over murderous extremism."
The Daily Mail chimed in, writing in its editorial that if Bhutto's death "is to mean anything, General Musharraf (sic) must use it to hasten the restoration of democracy."
"He should accept that the best hope of long-term stability is reform. Rapid movement towards civil rule must be his imperative -- and Miss Bhutto's memorial."
Some newspapers, such as The Guardian, noted the impact of Bhutto's assassination on American policy in Pakistan, which was to promote power-sharing between Musharraf and Bhutto.
In its editorial, The Guardian wrote that her death "deals a blow to Washington's plans to use Ms Bhutto as cover for the military president turned civilian leader."
"Now even that fig leaf has disappeared and there is no one ... prepared to take her place. Washington is back to square one: how to shore up an ally who is desperately unpopular in his own land."
Other dailies focused on the threat to Pakistan's long-term stability and viability, with the Daily Telegraph noting that "whatever her failings ... she epitomised resistance to military hegemony in a country that has known only brief periods of democracy."
"Her assassination casts into doubt the restoration of representative rule.
"A nuclear-armed, fundamentalist-threatened Pakistan will continue to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world."
The Financial Times described her death as "a disaster for a country that was already flirting with state failure."
"All Pakistan's leaders need to regroup around a national accord, to defeat extremism by restoring the legitimacy of its rulers and the credibility of its institutions.
"That should be the object of the January 8 elections -- even if they are postponed -- because the challenge for Pakistan is no less than to restart the process of nation-building."