Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Spoiler in Benazir's Race for Power - Her Exiled Brother

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Spoiler in Benazir's Race for Power - Her Exiled Brother

Article excerpt

PAKISTAN'S opposition People's Democratic Alliance (PDA), led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, hopes it can score a major victory in national elections scheduled for October.

But Ms. Bhutto, who gained worldwide prominence for being the first woman to lead an Islamic country, is faced with an unexpected family problem: Her brother, Murtaza Bhutto, who has lived in exile for more than 16 years, wants to return to Pakistan to run for office.

That has raised the prospect of a split in the powerful Bhutto family, which has led the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the largest faction of the PDA, for almost 25 years. Murtaza Bhutto, who currently lives in Damascus, Syria, is accused of leading an alleged terrorist organization known as Al-Zulfikar, named after his late father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Its activities began after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was toppled from office by a military coup in 1977 and hanged two years later on charges of ordering the assassination of a political opponent. Al-Zulfikar is accused of being involved in several terrorist incidents in Pakistan during the 11-year rule of former military dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq.

The family matriarch, Nusrat Bhutto, the mother of Murtaza and Benazir, announced her son's political ambitions on Aug. 7, after a trip to London to visit him.

"Murtaza will contest the elections, either from {Syria} or from Pakistan" she said. Under Pakistan's electoral laws, candidates do not have to be in the country to register or campaign. They are only required to come to the parliament to take an oath of office once they are elected.

Murtaza will contest parliamentary seats in at least nine districts, as allowed under Pakistani law, although he may only be elected in one. This would put him in a position to contest his sister's leadership of the PDA, although it is not clear whether he will challenge her ambition to be prime minister.

The elder Mrs. Bhutto denied that Murtaza's move would cause a split in the family. "Murtaza will not fight his sister {Benazir} nor her husband {Asif Ali Zardari}." And she tried to show the continuing strength of family ties: "Why should Asif go all over London looking for a birthday gift for Murtaza? …

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