Benazir Bhutto: A friend of
In recent years, Benazir Bhutto put
a lot of effort into securing
Like other foreign leaders seeking
to maximise their influence in
Her message to the
“For the first time in
“Although he resolutely eschews responsibility, Gen. Pervez Musharraf and his regime have stoked these fires. …
“The solution to stabilizing this anarchic state cannot be ‘stabilizing the current regime’ when the regime itself relies on fanning the flames of religious and ethnic terrorism to justify its undemocratic hold on power. …
“It is democracy alone
that can undermine the forces of religious extremism as well as give hope and
opportunity to the people of
The Bush administration
seems to have bought this message, at least to the extent of coming to believe
that a Government in
The administration must
have believed that, otherwise it wouldn’t have put so much pressure on Musharraf
to allow Bhutto to return to
To be fair to Musharraf,
he had very little option but to co-operate with the
didn’t do what she wanted without expecting to get something in return, when
she became Prime Minister. The
Whether she would have
been able to do so in practice, if she had lived to become Prime Minister, is a
different matter. In reality, it is
unlikely that she would have been able to deliver anything significant for the
Having been elected President for a further 5-year term (by an electoral college made up of members of the National Assembly, the Senate and the provincial assemblies), Musharraf resigned as Chief of Army Staff on 28 November 2007. This has been widely interpreted as an event of great significance, but he will obviously continue to work with the military leadership – as President he continues to be in “Supreme Command of the Armed Forces”, under Article 243 of the Constitution.
It is possible that a newly elected Parliament will have a large anti-Musharraf majority, which will attempt to take measures that he and the military are opposed to. It is even possible that the majority will attempt to unseat him altogether if they don’t get their way.
This can be done under Article 47 of the Constitution, which provides for the President to be impeached on the grounds that he is “unfit to hold the office due to incapacity or is guilty of violating the Constitution or of gross misconduct”. But it requires at least two thirds of the total membership of the two houses of parliament (the 342-seat National Assembly and the 100-seat Senate) to vote for a resolution to that effect at a joint sitting. (The Senate is indirectly elected mostly by provincial assemblies).
However, in the unlikely event of Musharraf being unseated, the inevitable result would be another military takeover.
More likely outcome
The more likely outcome now that the PPP is without an effective leader to be the Prime Minister, is that a government will emerge after the election that Musharraf will be able to work with. The nominal leader of the PPP, Benazir Bhutto’s son, Bilawal, cannot be elected to the National Assembly until he is over 25 in about six years time, that is, at least two elections hence – and being a member of the National Assembly is a necessary condition for being Prime Minister.
Under Article 91 of the Constitution, as President, Musharraf chooses the Prime Minister and this gives him some leverage over the shape of a post-election government. The more the votes are spread amongst the opposition parties the more leverage he will have. True, he will not have the freedom of action that he had for the past five years when he had a political ally as Prime Minister with a working majority in the National Assembly.
In the 2002 elections, the PML-Q (Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid-i-Azam) which supports Musharraf had just under 30% of the vote, as did Benazir Bhutto’s PPP (see The Election Commission of Pakistan website ). Nawaz Sharif’s party, the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz), got about 13%. Both the PPP and the PML-N had to contest the election without their leaders’ presence.
Prior to Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, opinion polls seemed to indicate that the PPP would be the largest party after the election, for example, a poll conducted in the latter half of November by the International Republican Institute, a US government-financed group, the PPP was predicted to get 30% of the vote across the country with the PML-N second on 25% and the PML-Q third on 23% .
It is generally expected that the
PPP will benefit from a sympathy vote as a consequence of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and will definitely emerge
as the largest party. However, in the
absence of an effective leader to be Prime Minister, the chances of Musharraf
being able to manage a post-election government should not be underestimated. When he succumbed to US pressure to allow
Bhutto to return to
What about Nawaz Sharif
Lest one gets the notion
Musharraf was persuaded to grant Bhutto immunity from prosecution for corruption. This was effected by the National Reconciliation Ordinance of 5 October 2007 , which granted immunity to all public office holders against whom proceedings for corruption had been initiated prior to 12 October 1999, when Musharraf seized power. This doesn’t apply to Nawaz Sharif, who is the subject of proceedings for corruption initiated after that date – and at the time of writing he is barred from standing for the National Assembly.
Musharraf was also persuaded to undo the constitutional ban on individuals serving more than two terms as Prime Minister, a ban he got inserted in 2002 to prevent Bhutto and Sharif serving as Prime Minister for a third time. In principle, Sharif can now be Prime Minister, but he has to get the bar on him being a member of the National Assembly lifted first.
Accusations of public office holders using their office for personal enrichment are two a penny in Pakistani politics. When such accusations are made by political opponents, it is unwise to believe them without corroboration from independent sources.
However, when a long standing friend of Benazir Bhutto testifies that her husband Asif Ali Zardari had a habit of asking for backhanders, you can be forgiven for taking the accusations seriously. Listen to the following:
the army’s unease about what they referred to derisorily as the ‘democratic
experiment’ came from the growing perception that
That was written about the first government led by Benazir Bhutto (from December 1988 to August 1990). It is taken from an article in the Sunday Times on 30 December 2007 , written by Christina Lamb who was a personal friend and admirer of Benazir Bhutto for 20 years – she attended her wedding in 1987 and was the only journalist in her vehicle when she was nearly assassinated in Karachi just after she arrived back in Pakistan in October 2007.
Although she was twice
dismissed as Prime Minister (in 1990 and 1996) for alleged corruption, Benazir
Bhutto was never charged in
General Zia ul-Haq
Benazir Bhutto’s first
term as Prime Minister followed eleven years of military dictatorship under General
Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. He had removed her
father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, from office in 1977 and had him executed in 1979,
after a questionable conviction for murder.
Zia ul-Haq’s reign came to an end in August 1988, when he was killed in
a plane crash along with other military leaders (and the
The Soviet invasion of
After the execution of
her father, Benazir Bhutto spent months in prison and years under house arrest in
An election was held in November
1988, a few months after the death of Zia ul-Haq. Under Benazir Bhutto’s leadership the PPP
emerged as the largest party, but just short of an overall majority. Despite her obvious claims to be Prime
Minister, two weeks elapsed without her being asked. According to Peter
Galbraith, who helped her woo
During her second term
as Prime Minister, from 1993 to 1996, the ISI switched its support to the
Taliban, as an Islamic movement that was bringing some order to the chaos that
followed the Soviet withdrawal from
The history of Benazir Bhutto’s tenure of office is that she never went against the US interest – which is presumably why Washington felt able to support her return to office for a third time.
On 3 November 2007,
Musharraf declared a State of
While he was in
Kiyani was Director of
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from 2004 to 2007 and Negroponte was the
5 January 2008
Labour & Trade Union Review