Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Year Later, Bhutto's Return to Power Looks More Tenable but a Relentless Opposition Campaign Hampers Her Ability to Govern

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Year Later, Bhutto's Return to Power Looks More Tenable but a Relentless Opposition Campaign Hampers Her Ability to Govern

Article excerpt

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 agitation. 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. …

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