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Friday, February 15, 2008

BULLETIN: Bhutto's PPP determined to oust Musharraf

The late Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party has sworn to get rid of President Musharraf using next week's parliamentary elections. If the party gains a majority, it could, in theory impeach Musharraf

Zulfakir Ali Bhutto, (1928-1979) father of Benazir Bhutto was a member of the powerful Rajput Bhutto dynasty that owned immense estates in Larkana, Sindh where Bhutto was born. He was educated at Berkeley and at Oxford before becoming a lawyer in Karachi in 1953. In 1958, he joined the cabinet of General Ayub Khan as Minister of Commerce. Khan appointed him Foreign Minister from 1963 to 1966 but Bhutto broke ranks by adopting a policy distancing Pakistan from the U.S. and India and moving closer to China and the USSR. He persuaded Khan to send troops into Kashmir, starting the Indo-Pakistan war and opposed the Tashkent boundary agreement by which the war was ended. After explusion from the cabinet, he founded the Pakistan People's Party in 1967, publicly criticized Khan for dictatorship and was imprisoned in 1968-69. In 1969 he became President Yahya Khan's foreign minister and deputy Prime Minister before Khan brought in democratic elections in 1970. A skilled politician and powerful personality, Bhutto and his PPP party swept West Pakistan in1970 but he and Yahya Khan refused to listen to the Awami League which represented a large number of seats secured for East Pakistan. The civil war followed. Yahya Khan handed his presidency to Bhutto in 1971 and Bhutto became Pakistan's first civilian president on a populist, socialist platform in the wake of the secession of East Pakistan. He nationalized many Pakistani industries and brought in a new constitution which shifted power from the post of president to that of prime minister. Taking advantage of the change, Bhutto became prime minister. However, he became increasingly authoritarian and his support began to unravel. He dismissed the government of Baluchistan for sedition and passed a law outlawing political parties on arbitrary grounds. His PPP was on the way to becoming Pakistan's sole political party. Having made promises to the poor, the began to support landowners and big business instead. Stull, he made modest progress for the urban poor. Throughout, he relied on support from the military, whose chief, General Zia Ul Haq he had himself appointed. In 1973 Bhutto was elected Prime Minister and the oil crisis and the OPEC embargo caused economic chaos in the country despite his social and economic reforms. A political rival from within the PPP was murdered in 1974, a crime that would come back to haunt him four years later. In 1977 he secured a large majority but it is generally agreed that he rigged the vote against the Pakistan National Alliance, a union of nine opposition parties which would have won a fair vote. Massive rioting followed. Bhutto agreed to new elections but General Zia Ul Haq, who already had a dim view of Bhutto's secular, socialist and economic policies, took advantage of charges of vote-rigging, corruption and of the 1974 murder of Bhutto's PPP political rival to have him deposed. Bhutto's daughter, Benazir, upon returning home from studying at Oxford was placed under house arrest. Throughout the summer and fall of 1978, Ali Bhutto was arrested and released, declaring throughout that General Zia U Haq would not dare touch him. On October 24 he was charged with attempted vote rigging, corruption and murder and convicted by the High Court in Lahore in March. On April 4, 1979, Bhutto was found guilty and hanged.

In 1978, Ali Bhutto was executed after being charged with vote-rigging, corruption and murder. His daughter, the Oxford-educated Benazir Bhutto inherited the mantle of leader of the secular opposition and in 1984 founded the PPP or Pakistan People'd Party. She and her husband, like her father, would endure periods of arrest and exile and repeated charges of corruption by Islamist parties and governments. In 1988, General Zia Ul Haq was killed in plane crash, rumoured to be an assassination. In the same year, Benazir Bhutto was elected Prime Minister.

In 1988, Army Chief Aslan Beg formed a coalition of relgious parties (the IJI) against her. When the IJI lost, the ISI and the army threw their support behind Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML). The army, working behind the scenes, forced Bhutto to relinquish all decision-making power on nuclear weapons to the military. In 1990 Beg was sued for using ISI money to form another anti-Bhutto alliance of relgious parties. The end for Bhutto came in the same year when she fired ISI head Hamid Gul without consulting Beg. She was promptly ousted on charges of corruption. In 1993 she was re-elected. It is believed by many that the MML, a powerful alliance of relgious parties, was expressly formed by Hamid Gul and the ISI to block the election of any secular party as well as to gather or to fabricate corruption charges against Benazir Bhutto.
In 1994, unwitting of the ultimate consequences, Bhutto encouraged Pakistan's ISI in the formation of the Taliban religious militia in Afghanistan in the belief that a friendly, Islamist, Afghanistan would link Pakistan to the economies of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. What was worse, the Taliban provided Afghanistan as a base for al Qaeda and its campaign of international teror. In 1996, Bhutto was dismissed, again on charges of corruption. She was succeeded by the Islamist Nawaz Sharif who angered the army by pulling it out of Kashmir and
dismissing its head, General Pervez Musharraf.

In 2007, with Musharraff weakened by the Choudhury and Red Mosque affairs, Benazir Bhutto, in exile in England, chose the moment to gamble on a return to Pakistan by offering Musharraff a political partnership. As sole viable opposition leader it seemed a wise move. Moreover the return of her old adversary, Nawaz Sharif was nipped in the bud when when Musharraf had him arrested and exiled again at the airport September 8. On Sept 16, the Supreme Court declared that a civil servant, contrary to former rulings, can run for office without a mandatory two years absence from his post- clearing the way for Musharraf to run in elections. He still had to abide by a promise to resign his army post upon taking office and to honour a pledge for Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan on October 17 free of corruption charges in return for having her PPP party abstain instead of voting against him.
On October 6, 2007, Musharraf swept the elections with a majority but in full knowledge that he would have to face further partnership negotiations with Bhutto and that the Supreme Court still had to decide whether his candidacy was legal. Bhutto, meanwhile, faced a split in her PPP party, with the more progressive wing condemning the alliance with Musharraf as a bretrayal of the party's democratic principles. Meanwhile, fighting between the army and Islamist militants in North Waziristan cost around 200 lives. Such was the atmosphere in Pakistan when Bhutto, arriving from exile in Britain, narrowly escaped death from a suicide attack on her convoyi. On October 21, she told the Telegraph that she planned to purge the ISI- providing a possible clue to the identities of her December assassins. Three days later, she sent a letter to Musharraf naming four suspects: -Lt.Gen. (retd) Hamid Gul, former Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the same who was removed from the post by Benazir during her first tenure as the Prime Minister (1988-90); Brig (retd)Ejaz Shah, the present Director-General of the Intelligence Bureau, which was responsible for her protection; Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, the present Chief Minister of Punjab; and Mr.Ejaz-ul-Haq, the Minister for Religious Affairs in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
On November 3, 2007, Musharraf declared a state of emergency allegedly on the grounds of a conspiracy from religious militants, though it was generally believed that he was merely lengthening his rule; and indeed he used the emergency to sack supreme court justices before they made a decision on the legitimacy of his election victory while still in uniform. Many of his political opponents were imprisoned; all political activity was banned; there was a crackdown on the media and Bhutto was placed under temporary house arrest to prevent her from leading a rally against the state of emergency. Musharraf promised elections for the post of Prime Minister on January 8 but most doubted that they would be free and fair. On December 15 he ended the state of emergency and restored the constitution, causing some question as to whether the state of emergency had indeed been imposed because of a threat from militants. On December 27, Bemazir Bhutto was killed by a suicide bomber as she campaigned for elections.
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