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In Pakistan, Bhutto's return stirring threats and allegations

The former prime minister has insinuated strongly that elements within the administration of President Pervez Musharraf were involved in last Thursday's attack.

By Staff writer / October 24, 2007



The detective leading an investigation into a suicide attack in Karachi that killed 136 people amid the throngs welcoming back former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto from exile resigned from the case on Wednesday after Ms. Bhutto complained about his qualifications to lead the case.

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The attack last Thursday, and the political recriminations that have swirled since, have raised concerns about the country's upcoming elections, the Associated Press reports.

The government has promised a thorough investigation of the attack, which has raised doubts about Pakistan's stability as it heads toward crucial elections.

Bhutto has accused elements in the government and security services of complicity in the explosions and called for international experts to help in the investigation. Government officials insist Pakistani authorities can handle the investigation on their own.

[Sindh Province Home Secretary Ghulam] Mohtarem said the provincial government had no doubt about [the investigators] competency and professionalism, but said he had decided to withdraw to protect the investigation from accusations of bias.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported that Bhutto has received death threats from Al Qaeda-aligned militants since her return and that the government has restricted her ability to leave the country, raising anger within her Pakistan People's Party.

In an op-ed in Dawn, Mahir Ali argues that the deal that brought Bhutto home from exile with President Pervez Musharraf, the general who now runs the country, is unlikely to weaken the Islamist militants that are believed to have carried out the attack. The piece also questions Bhutto’s own ability to bring about reform, comparing her negotiations with Mr. Musharraf to a similar compromise she made with strongman military rulers in the past.

Arguably the most important question before the country today is how the national agenda can be wrested back from the terrorists. It is hard to see how a tawdry cohabitation deal between Bhutto and Gen Pervez Musharraf can possibly serve as a suitable answer. Cooperation between all forces that are sincere in their desire to roll back obscurantist trends and stave off the terrorist threat is a sine qua non of progress, but it can only succeed in a truly democratic context. And that's something that does not, for the time being, appear to be on anyone's agenda.

But it's equally pertinent to remember that after the PPP emerged as the largest single party in the 1988 elections — despite the best efforts of Inter-Services Intelligence to thwart Bhutto's party — the assumption of power entailed a compromise with the military-bureaucratic establishment whereby Ghulam Ishaq Khan retained his presidential post as Zia's automatic successor and Sahibzada Yaqub Khan remained the foreign minister.

A similar arrangement is evidently being contemplated for 2008, with the army effectively retaining control not only of the presidency, but also of security and foreign affairs. So much for democracy.

The Los Angeles Timessharpening her rhetoric

Bhutto said at a news conference hours after the attack that she believed Islamic militants had carried out the suicide bombing, with the possible complicity of some former and present officials in the government of President Musharraf.

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