Bhutto's political career in Pakistan may hinge on outcome of husband's trial

October 16, 1990|By Henry F. Carey | Henry F. Carey,Special to The Sun

KARACHI,PAKISTAN — KARACHI, Pakistan -- Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's political career may be in jeopardy if kidnapping and terrorism charges against her husband are sustained.

Analysts feel that the government must have obtained a "smoking gun," probably testimony from the prime suspect in the kidnapping of a British philanthropist-businessman and extortion of funds from him.

Miss Bhutto has denied the charges against her husband, saying, "I will not be blackmailed by these gutter politicians." She said that any testimony would be fabricated in an effort to force her to quit politics and leave Pakistan.

Even if her Pakistan People's Party were to win parliamentary elections on Oct. 24, an eventual guilty verdict from a special terrorism court against her husband, Asif Ali Zadari, could lead to a conviction against her for obstructing justice. She allegedly tried to quash legal in

vestigations and charges against her husband and another prime suspect.

If convicted, she could be removed from office for seven years. It is too early to assess the effect of her husband's arrest on her party's fortunes in the National Assembly elections and in elections for four provincial assemblies Oct. 27. A minority of political analysts suggests the PPP will benefit from a sympathy vote over Mr. Zadari's arrest. But many Pakistanis regard Mr. Zadari with contempt stemming from allegations that he abused theauthority of his wife's position during her 20 months in office by extracting 10 percent commissions on government licenses.

Despite his arrest, Mr. Zadari is still running for a National Assembly seat in the city of Nawabshah in the southeast. He has apparently spent millions of dollars on his campaign, far in excess of campaign financing limits.

Mr. Zadari's father, Hakim Ali Zadari, won that seat in the 1988 elections that brought Miss Bhutto to power. The elder Zadari, like Miss

Bhutto's mother, went to London in self-exile after the dissolution of the National Assembly in August.

The public has had almost no sympathy for the younger Zadari and regard the details of the kidnapping as particularly nauseating. He is charged with collaborating with Ghulam Hussein Unar in the extortion in April of $800,000 from a British businessman and philanthropist of Pakistani descent, Murtaza Hussain Bukhari.

The authorities say Mr. Zadari was not present during the kidnapping but is accused as an accomplice and for attempting to prevent Mr. Unar from being arrested.

Mr. Unar, the member of the Sind Provincial Assembly from Lakarna, took Mr. Bukhari to see Mr. Zadari, who promised to provide free land for a new hospital for handicapped children and encouraged Mr. Bukhari to make a large donation. Later Mr. Unar allegedly kidnapped Mr. Bukhari, held him captive in a bungalow and threatened him with explosives unless he transferred large amounts of money to Mr. Unar's accounts.

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