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Jail's Demise Symbolizes Change : Crises Loom for Pakistan Along Road to Democracy

November 27, 1988|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

Under agreements signed in Geneva last April, the Soviet Union has pledged to withdraw all of its occupation troops from Afghanistan--100,300 soldiers before the pullout began, according to Moscow--by Feb. 15, after a nine-year conflict that has left 1 million dead and an estimated 5 million refugees in Pakistan and Iran.

Pledges to Hold Course

In a series of recent interviews, Bhutto has pledged not to veer from the course that Zia charted on the war.

"We don't want to reopen that issue," Bhutto said. "We think the Afghan situation is in its final stages . . . and it's best to continue whatever the previous administration was doing."

Even if the 3.2 million refugees living in hundreds of Pakistani refugee camps do return to their Afghan villages, the war has left Pakistan and its next leader with a list of domestic problems that are far more difficult to erase than the aging brick walls and iron gallows of Rawalpindi Central Jail.

Perhaps nowhere were those troubles placed in sharper focus than in the Indus Gallery in Karachi, where an exhibit by artist A. R. Nagori sought to document Zia's legacy in a series of 26 angry paintings.

Letters Record Forces

In those images, Nagori said, he used the letters of the English alphabet to record "the brute forces that now rule our daily lives.

"We used to teach our children, 'A is for apple, B is for boy,' but our society has become an evil place. Our masses are illiterate, and they are living in fear."

In Nagori's new alphabet, tailor made, he said, for his deeply troubled nation, "A is for army, C is for crime, H is for heroin and K is for Kalashnikov," the Soviet-designed AK-47 assault rifle that now can be found throughout the Pakistani countryside.

Most of those rifles were diverted into the Pakistani market from a $2-billion weapons pipeline set up by the CIA to arm the moujahedeen , Afghanistan's anti-Communist Islamic rebels who are largely responsible for Moscow's decision to extricate its troops.

The Afghan war also introduced heroin into Pakistan. Before the war, the opium and refined heroin--one of Afghanistan's traditional cash crops--went to markets in Europe and America by land, through Iran and Turkey. When the Soviet troops invaded in 1979, those routes switched to Pakistan.

670,000 Heroin Addicts

As a result, Pakistan, which had not a single recorded heroin addict in 1980, now has more than 670,000, the world's second-largest population of addicts after Iran. And for most, there is little hope in sight.

At a heroin clinic set up by Karachi's prominent humanitarian, Abdul Sattar Edhi, doctors said at least 80% of their patients return to heroin after they leave, largely because they go back to the daily reality of poverty, unemployment and despair.

Ismail, a Karachi donkey cart driver who said he had been in Edhi's clinic 10 times in two years, said, "My mother once told me, 'It's better if someone just kills you.' Maybe she is right. Everywhere in Karachi, you can buy heroin, and everywhere people are taking it."

During a press conference at her comfortable home not far from the neighborhood where Ismail drives his ancient cart, Bhutto recently told reporters, "We would like to see not only the dawn of democracy in our country, but also the assertion of a Pakistani spirit . . . a new era of unity and identity for the Pakistani."

But social critics like artist Nagori see that as a monumental task--a fundamental and long-delayed recognition by Pakistanis of the distinctiveness of their nation.

'See No Bright Future'

"We created this country to improve our lot," he said recently at the art gallery, surrounded by his images of violence, death and hopelessness. "We sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives for a better future, and I still see no bright future for us. We are Muslims, yes, but what have we become as a nation, as a people?

"We are nowhere. We are like a kite flying nowhere with no one holding the string."

Pakistan also is deeply divided after a succession of governments--among them that of Bhutto's father--exploited the linguistic and ethnic differences among the country's four provinces and used them as pawns in struggles to stay in power, analysts said.

The battle between native Sindis in Pakistan's southeastern province and Urdu-speaking immigrants from India, who call themselves Mohajirs, escalated sharply this year, leaving more than 300 dead in October alone.

Punjabis Fear for Jobs

Punjabis, who predominated in positions of power during the Zia government, now fear disfranchisement under Bhutto, who is a Sindi. And in Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier, both key Afghan border provinces where similar bitterness prevails, deeply divided political parties will be running their governments in fragile coalitions.

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