AFTER standing outside Karachi's posh Avari Hotel for almost
four hours in search of a customer, taxi driver Sardar Khan plans
to leave for the day. "These politicians are bad for business.
They fight while we suffer," he says, pointing toward a newspaper
headline that outlined the Pakistani opposition's plans to once
again call a strike.
Like many others, he is tired of the repeated calls for
antigovernment protests. For many Pakistanis, the continuing rift
between the government and opposition is only a reminder of a
deepening malaise in Pakistani politics, where the two sides
continue to be locked in a never-ending dispute.
As Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto celebrates her first
anniversary in office Oct. 19, she is confident her power is
secure. "I believe the people have given us a mandate to change
their destiny. For that, I and my government must not be distracted
by extraneous issues," she said while discussing her government's
economic gains recently, referring to the opposition's ongoing
Everchanging nature of politics
But in the tricky world of Pakistani politics, no one can be
certain about the future. The country has seen 15 prime ministers
come to office during the last 23 years of civilian rule. The
previous years of Pakistan's 46-year history have been dominated by
tough military rule.
Politicians who were persecuted during the most-recent military
rule (1977-88), include Bhutto and her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,
the former prime minister who was executed in 1979 on a politically
motivated murder charge under orders from Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq,
the last military dictator.
But times have changed. The powerful Army shows no signs of
wanting to intervene, largely because of concerns that doing so
would immediately spark a strong negative international reaction.
Bhutto also draws support from the powerful president, Farooq
Leghari, who served as one of her most-trusted lieutenants during
her last term as premier.
The political picture, however, remains murky. Bhutto's ruling
Pakistan People's Party neither has a majority of its own in
parliament nor in the Punjab, Pakistan's largest province. As a
result, she was forced last year to forge an alliance with renegade
members of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif's party.
In addition, there are no signs that Mr. Sharif is willing to
relent in his antigovernment campaign. In recent months, leaders of
the opposition Pakistan Muslim League have accused the Bhutto
administration of running an inefficient and corrupt government. …