Opposition Cries Foul Over Bhutto Blast

Pakistan opposition parties believe the bombing attack against the homecoming parade of former premier Benazir Bhutto scuffles the opposition ahead of the upcoming general elections, scheduled for next January and only serves the interest of President Pervez Musharraf. More...
“This is an attempt to control the entire political system, and the political parties so that they cannot mobilize the masses against the military regime, particularly in the upcoming general elections,” Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, Chairman of former premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N), told IslamOnline.net.

He believes that Pakistan and its political system will bear the brunt of the October 18 terrorist attack that killed 148 people and injured over 500 others.

“The military regime doesn’t want the opposition parties to get united and take to the streets against that,” maintains Zafar-ul-Haq.

“It has been trying since long to divide the opposition parties in the name of left and right schools of thought.”

The government has already banned mass rallies in the wake of the bombing attack, drawing criticism from all opposition parties, including Bhutto’s Pakistan People Party (PPP).

The PML(N) leader insists that the possibility of a government involvement in the bombing cannot be ruled out.

“Ms Bhutto herself has blamed some powerful government officials for the bombing. I too think that there can be a possibility, but anything definitive in this connection can be said only after the investigation is complete.”

Bhutto, a two-time premier who just returned from an eight-year self-exile, has blamed the chief of country’s powerful Intelligence Bureau, Brigadier Ejaz Shah, former Chairman National Accountability Bureau, Hassan Waseem Afzal, and Punjab Chief Minister, Chaudry Perwaiz Elahi, for the attempt on her life.

“I don’t blame Al Qaeda or Taliban. I had already told General Musharraf that if something wrong happens to me, these three people would be responsible for that,” she told a press conference in Karachi.

Bhutto has asked the government to seek international assistance in investigation the bombing, a request immediately rebuffed by the government.

Winner Musharraf

Raja insists that those elements who want to maintain the status quo in the country will be the only ones to benefit from the terrorist attack.

“The government is using this attack to ban the public meetings and rallies during election campaign compelling us to think in this way,” he said.

“The ruling party is not in a position to face the masses in the election. That is why it wants a situation like that,” he charged.

“No doubt, this will adversely affect the election campaign because people are scared. If one or two incidents like that happen before elections, then there could be a total breakdown.”

Amir-ul-Azim, Central Secretary Information of the Jammat-e-Islami, one of the major religious parties in Pakistan, agrees.

“Politicians and political activities will be controlled after this terrorist attack, especially at a time when general elections are fast approaching,” he told IOL.

He believes that General Musharraf, who assumed power in a 1998 bloodless and just got re-elected as president-in-uniform, is the only winner.

“General Musharraf and his company will be the major beneficiary of this terrorist attack because it will restrict the politicians and political activities, which suits the military dictators.”

Azim said military dictators always seek to “bury” political activities.

“A situation where political activities are controlled and limited suits the military regimes because they can easily get the desired results in elections in such circumstances.”

Musharraf is under international and domestic pressures to allow fair and free elections, which observers believe would lead to a crushing defeat of his loyalists who now control the parliament.

Azim fears that the assassination attempt on Ms Bhutto will affect the election campaigns of the political parties.

“After this deadly attack, it will be a hard task for the political parties to mobilize the political workers during their respective election campaigns, and then to the voters on the polling day,” he believes.

“I understand that committed political workers will attend public meetings and rallies in any case, but the common workers and voters will not do that.”

Winner Bhutto


Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan believes the bombing was a conspiracy to postpone the elections.

“This a calculated attempt to bully the political workers into fear so that they should not attend the public meetings and rallies,” said Khan, the Chairman of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI).

“The ruling alliance wants the election postponed because they cannot face the public due to their deadly policies.

“Those elements who turn the country into a no-go area for political parties and workers are behind this attack.”

Khan insists that Ms Bhutto also stands to gain from the whole episode.

“No doubt Benazir has gained sympathy nationally and internationally, but it is not necessary that she will be able to exploit this sympathy in the elections.”

Tariq Butt, an Islamabad-based political analyst, agrees that the tragedy has produced political gains for Ms Bhutto.

“Nobody is now talking about the controversial national reconciliation ordinance that has been challenged in the apex court,” he told IOL.

“Before this attack, Ms Bhutto had been under immense criticism for striking a deal with a military dictator, but the terrorist bombing changed the whole scenario.

“It not only fired up the PPP but also brought an extensive sympathy wave from its estranged leaders and workers, who had said goodbye to the party or were about to quit it for playing ball with the general.”

Butt said this change of heart reflected the general sentiments of Pakistanis, who tend to stand with a person being persecuted and pitched against heavy odds.

Butt believes the bombing has also reinforced Bhutto’s leadership in the United States and the West as a brave woman, poised to take on terrorists.

“The attack demonstrated that the life threat that she was talking about on the eve of her return to Pakistan was real. This added to her international credentials and signaled a message across the world, particularly powerful capitals, that if Musharraf had been a darling of the West because of his campaign against terrorists and extremists and always faced threats to his life, she too was equally qualified to assume this role – independently or in collaboration with the president.”

Aamir Latif

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