Karachi, Oct. 18: Most Pakistanis think the “marriage” between liberal politician Benazir Bhutto and military ruler Pervez Musharraf will not last long.
Former Prime Minister Benazir arrived in Pakistan today from eight years in self-imposed exile after negotiating a power-share deal with President Musharraf. The US is believed to have quietly encouraged the alliance, hoping it will keep Pakistan pro-West and committed to fighting militancy.
“They (Musharraf and Benazir) will fight like cat and dog,” Musharraf’s most senior adviser said. “Benazir is like a dictator.”
The President can expect the Opposition Pakistan People’s Party leader, who will be fighting the January elections for a third term as Prime Minister, to challenge him on several key issues.
She made a strong appeal for a peaceful transition to full democracy after her arrival today, threatening street protests if negotiations with Musharraf failed. She faces a compulsion to make noises against the general, of course, because her deal with him may endanger her popularity.
Musharraf — elected President this month with a court challenge to the legality of his bid still pending — spent the morning at his army offices in Rawalpindi with no official engagements scheduled. He has promised to shed his uniform if he can stay President.
Musharraf had requested Benazir to put off her return till the court decided on his candidature and also on the amnesty deal he had signed for her, but she did not oblige him.
Intelligence reports suggested at least three groups linked to al Qaida and the Taliban were plotting suicide attacks against her. But Benazir responded with words few Pakistani politicians would dare use.
“Islam forbids attacks on women, and Muslims know that if they attack a woman they will burn in hell,” she said. “Secondly, Islam forbids suicide bombing…. I am not scared. I am thinking of my mission.”