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Bhutto's legacy propels Pakistan People's Party ahead of election

Her party is expected to do well in Feb. 18 parliamentary polls, analysts say.

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A second, by Terror Free Tomorrow, suggests that 36.7 percent of Pakistanis favor the PPP, with its nearest competition 11 percentage points behind. Both organizations are based in the US and have conducted several surveys in Pakistan ahead of the election.

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Along the route of Bader's rally through Lahore, Mumtaz Ali Khan stands outside his necktie shop in Anar Kali market, awaiting Bader's arrival with a PPP pin and a broad smile.

He says he has always supported former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League. But this time he will vote for the PPP to honor "not only Benazir but her whole family," noting how her father, also a former prime minister, was executed by a military dictator on what most Pakistanis say were unjust charges.

In Pakistan, where corruption is a common charge for politicians, including Bhutto, the family's sacrifice has atoned for her missteps. Says longtime PML-N supporter, Sajjab Khalid: "She gave her life for the country."

Bhutto had laid out a platform that found considerable agreement with US foreign policy aims – even when it was questioned by members of her party. She insisted terrorism was a serious threat to Pakistan, even though it made her a target. And despite considerable personal animosity, she was willing to work with Musharraf to maintain national stability.

Mr. Zardari has insisted he will stick to Bhutto's policy. Bader says he will consider nothing else. "I look at her mission, her thoughts, her struggle for inspiration," he says.

Both policies will be tested in coming months if the PPP finds itself in a leadership role. The IRI roll put Musharraf's approval rating at 15 percent. Cooperating with him could alienate many who voted for the PPP – especially since 62 percent of Pakistanis believe Musharraf's government was behind Bhutto's assassination, says the IRI poll.

It leaves Zardari in a difficult situation – attempting to follow Bhutto's will without her charisma or popularity. "It's not going to be easy to work with Musharraf because of this history," says Mr. Mahmood, the columnist. "The question is whether Zardari wants to upset the apple cart immediately," he adds.

For Zardari, who was widely seen as being corrupt during his wife's two terms as prime minister, it will be an early test of his leadership. For the moment, however, the party is firmly behind him. "To lead such a big party is difficult," says Bader. But Zardari is Bhutto's widower, and "there would not be so much consensus about any other leader," he adds.

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