Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in a self-exile in the United Kingdom is reportedly planning to return to Pakistan in October or November of this year to challenge the army's rule. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has already said that he will throw her in jail if she dares return.
Bhutto has been touring the US trying to evince support from policy makers to get Musharraf to tone down his rhetoric and accept her into the political system but reports suggest that she has had very little support from the US Administration. President George Bush has reportedly refused to grant a one to one audience with Bhutto for fear that it may estrange Musharraf even more and therefore affect the war on terror in Afghanistan.
Not to be beaten so easily, Bhutto revealed that she is working closely with erstwhile rival Mian Nawaz Sharif on ways to restore democracy in Pakistan. There has been several reports in the Pakistani media about an impending deal between Bhutto and Musharraf who is seeking reelection next year. Musharraf himself is accused of trying to postpone Parliamentary elections so he can get his reelection doctored by the current Electoral College which owes allegiance to him.
Even if such a deal is accommodated between Bhutto and Musharraf, it is unlikely
that the Army will accept her after statements on the army, its "strategic"
programs, or human rights violations. She has questioned Pakistan's decision to
buy the American F-16 fighter jets and is in direct variance with the military
establishment which has fought a long and hard diplomatic and political battle
to get it approved within the nation and with the US Congress. While her
arguments that a stronger economy is what Pakistan needs more than fighter
planes may be accurate to most rationalists, it alienates her from the military
establishment in Islamabad and the military-war industrial establishment in
Washington. After all, the Pentagon has been trying to project the F-16 sale as
a tool to control Pakistan's behavior.
Even with the liberal establishment in the US, the statements against over-emphasis on military might ring hollow. After all, it was Bhutto who spent a lot of the economy on military. At home, anti-Musharraf coalition is angry with her for supporting a bill in the US Congress that links US assistance to results on the war on terrorism and restoration of democracy-many say that this is an unpatriotic act siding with the Democratic establishment over the nation. While such conclusions may be dismissed as emotional outburst and Bhutto's arguments as valid, the lack of clear articulation of position makes her look like another Musharraf. While wanting to restore democracy, fight against terror, or more focus on the economy she sounds like she is trying to embarrass Musharraf and not do what is right for Pakistan.
If Bhutto is to gain the support of the people, she and Sharif have to device a joint plan of action that will show how a democratic Pakistan could move into the developed world. They need to articulate to Pakistanis and the rest of the world how they will be better leaders than a military dictator. They must also be willing to travel back home, be incarcerated, and face charges of embezzlement.
Pakistan faces a larger leadership deficit than any other nation in South Asia. While this may be dismissed as symbolic of many nations, Islamabad is also a nuclear weapons state and a major frontline state in the war on terror. A post Musharraf scenario is not only uncertain but rids the whole region into insecurity. Therefore, it is important that the world encourage alternate sources of power from within Pakistan so that nation can be strong, successful, and prosperous.