Benazir Bhutto deposed again Pakistan crisis: Violence and corruption mounted in her second term.

December 02, 1996

THE FIRST woman prime minister of an Islamic country, Benazir Bhutto disappointed all who thought she might bring stability, democracy, human rights and peace to Pakistan. She did not.

Deposed by the president of Pakistan for the second time, eight years after her first election, Ms. Bhutto is only 43 and as bright and persuasive as ever. She will be, as she has defiantly made clear, heard from again.

President Farooq Leghari, a former supporter, gave compelling reasons for dismissing her, including the reign of murder in Karachi, rampant corruption and her power struggle with an independent judiciary. Although soldiers enforced the transfer of power, there is no sign of return to military rule. The acting prime minister, Meraj Khalid, another former supporter, called elections for Feb. 3.

In contrast with the outcry over a similar action against Ms. Bhutto in 1990, the international response has been deafening silence. To Japan, the United States, India, Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations, what happened was an internal matter provided for under Pakistan's constitution.

The change in leadership is not likely to affect policy on India or nuclear development. It may bring a review, though, of Pakistan's support of the extremist Taliban militia in Afghanistan, which was associated with Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar, whom President Leghari also dismissed.

Ms. Bhutto responded to allegations of corruption against her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, by naming him minister of investment. This more than anything precipitated her downfall. She and her rivals traded accusations of arranging the killing of her brother and political opponent, Murtaza Bhutto.

Now Mr. Zardari is under arrest without charge. Late last week, the government continued his detention by issuing a new order against him. Ms. Bhutto, a mother of three, has challenged both their father's incarceration and her ouster in the courts. Their fate is in doubt.

Pakistanis want honesty, democracy, an economy of hope and an end to violence. Whether the president and acting prime minister can deliver these with new elections is another question.

Pub Date: 12/02/96

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