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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

Bhutto insists that she and her People's Party are the only forces with sufficiently broad popular support to bring unity to Pakistan. But critics say Bhutto and the majority of her party members lack the experience to balance the powerful forces around her.

Justice Minister Sajjad, though, is among those who believe Bhutto will succeed. Although he personally is identified with the Zia regime, Sajjad said: "It's going to be a tough test--a difficult job. But I'm sure she will be able to handle it.

"There is a lack of experience. In the initial period, they'll have to rely on the bureaucracy, which is still very strong in Pakistan. Unlike her father, who already had 12 years in government, she does not have the experience. But I do think she has the ability and the education to handle the responsibilities of the office."

In a nation that has spent so long under martial law, though, Bhutto is keenly aware of what is likely to be her most difficult short-term challenge.

Heightened Expectations

"People do have a lot of heightened expectations, because they have been through so much," Bhutto told The Times at the height of her election campaign this month. "When we do come to power, it will be difficult to please everyone and sort out all of these messes all at once."

And she noted several times during her campaign the deep polarization in a society where a handful of rich and powerful have dictated to the largely impoverished and illiterate masses.

"Our message all along has been very simple," she said. "Let us bury the past. Let us bury the slogans of the past. Let us enter the 21st Century."

But even amid the rubble of the old Rawalpindi Central Jail, there are signs of the depth of that lingering polarization--angry signs as difficult to bury as the problems facing the Pakistani nation.

Inside an ancient, Mogul Era well, which is the only structure still standing in the prison compound, are scrawled graffiti saying, "Zia smokes heroin" and "Zia is a dog."

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