October 18, 2007

Bhutto Gets Her Welcome

Former Prime Minister Benazie Bhutto returned to Pakistan in triumph today, with thousands of supporters cheering her arrival despite heavy security precautions in Karachi. A tearful Bhutto may not have generated the million people for which she hoped, but the turnout was nonetheless impressive:

Authorities have mounted a massive security operation to protect the 54-year-old from possible attack by Islamic militants. But the precautions failed to dampen the spirit of huge crowds forming in Karachi.

Hundreds of buses and other vehicles festooned with billboards welcoming her back were parked bumper-to-bumper along the boulevard from the airport to the city center. A huge red, green and black flag of her Pakistan People's Party hung from one apartment block overlooking the route.

Supporters including representatives of Pakistan's minority Christian and Hindu communities and Baluch tribesmen with flowing white turbans, walked toward the airport, while groups of men performed traditional dances, beat drums or shook maracas along the way. ....

Outside Karachi airport, police baton-charged one group of supporters who approached the VIP terminal, where Bhutto was expected to arrive after landing. But with the crowds swelling, they later relaxed the cordon and let thousands of flag-waving PPP partisans to gather round the building.

Bhutto can bask in the celebration now, but it won't be long before she'll need to start producing. The first step will be the January parliamentary elections. If she is to partner with Pervez Musharraf, she'll have to make herself and her party as strong as possible for the elections. Bhutto will need a large constituency in the Parliament to keep her new partner in check.

The US hopes that Bhutto can lend strength to Musharraf in his fight against the Islamists, and certainly Bhutto wants to see the Islamists destroyed. She has even suggested that the US take an active role in clearing Waziristan of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, music to Washington's ears, but farther than Musharraf and the Army want to go. The real question will be whether the two leaders can really partner together, or whether they will operate at cross purposes and make matters worse.

The Supreme Court expects to rule on Musharraf's election and Bhutto's amnesty within the next two weeks. If both win those rulings, we shall see whether Bhutto's return means good news for our fight against terror, or merely more chaos in a nation where we can ill afford it.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Please note that unverified Disqus users will have comments held in moderation. Please visit Disqus to register and verify your account. Comments from verified users will appear immediately.