Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bhutto Issues an Ultimatum to Musharraf And Threatens A `Long March'

As the turmoil in Pakistan continues, the ` democratic' opposition seems to be centering around one figure - ex Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Bhutto urged Pakistanis to join mass protests against the state of emergency, which sets up a confrontation with President Pervez Musharraf and the army.

Bhutto said she plans to hold a rally in the city of Rawalpindi on Friday, and issued an ultimatum to Musharraf, calling for a "long march" on November 13 from Lahore to the capital if Musharraf does not repeal the emergency rule.

Right after Bhutto spoke, at the parliament building in Islamabad, the police tear-gassed and baton-charged hundreds of her supporters.

"I appeal to the people of Pakistan to come forward. We are under attack," Bhutto told a news conference after holding talks with other opposition leaders in Islamabad.

Apparently those talks were fruitful. Another former Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, wants to build a united platform with the other opposition parties against Musharraf, and Shahbaz Sharif, the president of his exiled brother's Pakistan Muslim League-N party, confirmed the party was working with Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party(PPP).

Bhutto ignored a warning by the police chief in Rawalpindi that her followers would not be allowed to stage a rally there, because of the emergency rule banning these gatherings and the risk of suicide bombings.

"If they try to flout the ban, the law would take its course," the garrison city's police chief Saud Aziz said.

"God willing, there will be a flood of people. If I am arrested, people should continue the struggle," Bhutto said in response.

This could play out one of several ways.

Bhutto could in fact end up being assassinated. Pakistan's Islamists have a visceral hatred for her, and in fact came close to killing her last month in Karachi when she was nearly the victim of a bombing in Karachi during a parade marking her homecoming that killed 139 people.

Or Bhutto could end up being arrested and either tried for the ongoing corruption charges that were quietly quashed as a condition of her return or simply exiled again.

Or this could be part of a well rehearsed ploy.

Bhutto's not stupid. As a member of Pakistan's oligarchy, she understands how power works and that she hasn't a chance of ruling the country without the army. That was the original rationale behind the power sharing deal between her and Musharraf; Bhutto would bring Pakistan's `democrats' on board while Musharraf would deliver the vital army support.
While Bhutto was forced on Musharraf by the US and others, Musharraf was probably willing to go along as long as he retained the presidency.

Musharraf's chief aim in calling the emergency was to eliminate his political opposition on the Pakistani supreme court, get ex-chief Justice Choudry out of the way, and consolidate his hold on the country, which he's done.

Bhutto's main aim is to get back into Pakistani politics in a position of power.

It might be to both their advantage politically to pretend that Musharraf had `succumbed to the popular will' rather than for it to appear that Bhutto has cut a deal with him.

This may very well have been arranged in advance.

Of course, the Islamists and the Taliban might have something to say on this matter, and I'd be very surprised if we didn't hear from them soon.


B.Poster said...

This is truly a mess!! As far as I'm concerned, we should support which ever party or group will best assist us in fighting the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and their Communist allies. Perhaps both groups are enemies of America and the West. If this is the case, we should destroy both of them.

Freedom Fighter said...

"As far as I'm concerned, we should support which ever party or group will best assist us in fighting the Taliban....

In Pakistan, Poster, that means NOBODY. And yes, it's a mess.

Soccer Dad said...

I have never been a fan of Bhutto. I don't believe her to be democratic. I still don't know if her father was justly executed or not. (Since Zia did it, I can't be sure. But he was executed for murder.)
She is an extreme leftist and I tend to believe that the corruption charges against her husband are legit.

Freedom Fighter said...

Oh, I mostly agree, SD.

Aside from that,she's part of the oligarchy, with all the quid pro quo and back scratching that implies.

It's interesting to compare Pakistan and India. They're mostly similar in terms of culture and were ruled by the same colonial power, became independent at the same time and have the same heritage - EXCEPT for Pakistan being almost entirely Islamic.

India is a functioning, vital democracy who's never had a military coup, with an 8% per annum economic growth rate.

Pakistan is a basket case.