Don’t let attack deter democracy in Pakistan
Benazir Bhutto's convoy was attacked upon her return from exile to Pakistan.
THE bloody attack on the entourage of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto on her celebrated return after eight years in exile threatens to shatter her deal of shared rule with President Pervez Musharraf. It should not prompt Musharraf to declare martial law and try to prolong his sole control as president and chief of the army. Instead, democracy should return to Pakistan, strengthening the U.S. alliance.
"I pray for the best and prepare for the worst," Bhutto wrote in a Washington Post op-ed piece last month regarding her planned return home after self-exile in Dubai to avoid corruption charges until Musharraf granted her amnesty. Her expectations were profound, as crowds of 200,000 or more cheered her arrival until two explosions killed at least 134 people and wounded 540. Bhutto blamed the attack on al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
Recent polls showed that Bhutto's popularity decreased after she accepted Musharraf's deal. She was surpassed by anti-Musharraf candidate and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, also exiled in 1999 because of corruption charges. Sharif was deported last month minutes after his return to Pakistan, despite a Supreme Court ruling that he could return; he plans to do so again in time for the January parliamentary elections.
The deal between the president and the opposition leader is a somewhat cynical arrangement that not only voids corruption charges against Bhutto but is intended to restore her as prime minister and make Musharraf's recent re-election, now under legal challenge, more palatable. He also gives up his role as head of the army. Though hardly an example of democracy at its best, the deal would be a welcome step in Pakistan and benefit the United States. Bhutto has said she would allow U.S. forces into Pakistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden -- not a popular position -- but the attack on Bhutto might backfire on her opponents.
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