Friday, November 09, 2007

Bhutto Placed Under House Arrest - Government Rounds Up Her Supporters

Bhutto and her followers try to push past barbed wire surrounding her house.

Pakistan continues to unravel, as President Musharraf, in response to ex-Premier Benazir Bhutto's ultimatum placed her under house arrest and arrested some 5,000 of her supporters in the opposition.

Bhutto provided an unintended moment of comedy when she shouted at the police "Do not raise hands on women. You are Muslims. This is un-Islamic," she shouted.

The White made a statement to the effect that it is "crucial for Pakistan's future that moderate political forces work together to bring Pakistan back on the path to democracy."

The house arrest was lifted after a few hours.

I still see this as an exercise in face saving for both Bhutto and Musharraf. After all, if he wanted to, Musharraf could have Bhutto packed into a plane and thrown out of the country any time he wanted to.

At the worst, I think it's a jousting match for deal points in the power sharing arrangement between Bhutto and Musharraf. Musharraf is spectacularly unpopular in the Pakistani street, which is why he needs Bhutto - especially a Bhutto who's reputation has been enhanced as a `champion of democracy' and a rebel standing up to Musharraf. That's why Washington pushed Musharraf into partnering up with Bhutto in the first place.

For her part, if Bhutto is to ascend to being Prime Minister, she's going to need Musharraf and a willing army in order to have any chance at successful rule.

Another sign of this is that the US and the UK, while making the appropriate noises of concern have really not done much to forcefully oppose what's going on.

Nor will they, I think.

The unforeseen glitch in these plans, of course, is the Taliban and the Islamists, who have no love for either Musharraf or Bhutto...and who, I think, will make their presence known in a very forceful fashion.

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