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Pakistan's Ousted Bhutto Lashes Back at President

November 07, 1996|BARRY BEARAK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Benazir Bhutto, heir to one of Asia's great political dynasties and all the bloodstained treachery that comes with it, emerged from a forced seclusion Wednesday and accused Pakistan's president of murdering her brother, kidnapping her husband and disgracing the name of all-powerful Allah.

For good measure, she also said President Farooq Leghari--her onetime comrade--is a coward, a traitor and, to be brutally honest about it, not very bright.

"All his life," she said, "he will be like Lady Macbeth, saying, 'Out damned spot.' "

The spot that allegedly made its indelible stain on him came a day earlier, when Leghari used his presidential powers to dismiss Bhutto as prime minister and call for national elections Feb. 3.

The device used to dismiss Bhutto was Article 58-2(B), a curious, murky part of the Pakistani Constitution that allows the nation's second-most powerful civilian official to fire the first.

Since 1988, the law has been invoked four times--twice against Bhutto--creating havoc each time.

Bhutto said she had expected better of Leghari, the longtime family friend whom she had handpicked for the presidency.

"He was a very good No. 2," Bhutto said sarcastically at a jammed news conference. "He had no vision. He had no strategy. But he was a very good implementer."

After a day of virtual house arrest, Bhutto seemed shaken by how smoothly she was unseated.

While hardly an unexpected turn, the dismissal of her government because of accusations of corruption required a good deal of coordinated effort, as well as the tacit approval of a restless, meddlesome army.

Defiant as most of her remarks were in her news conference, she was cautious about insulting the military.

"I believe the armed forces of Pakistan are neutral," she said.

What lies ahead are intricate plays for public support, but it will be hard for Bhutto to settle on a strategy because of the many uncertainties of her situation: Can her dismissal be overturned in court? Will she be banned from the upcoming elections? Most important, what will become of her husband, Asif Ali Zardari?

"My husband has been kidnapped on the orders of President Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari," she said, seated beneath the gold and crystal chandeliers of the prime minister's official residence, an elegant home that she will soon have to vacate. "There are laws. If you want to arrest him, arrest him, take him to jail. But don't kidnap people."

Zardari was detained by army officers Tuesday and is now being held in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

"Charges of a serious nature" will be filed against him, said Ershad Haqqin, a spokesman for the government of acting Prime Minister Miraj Khalid, appointed by Leghari.

Bhutto was allowed to visit her husband late Wednesday.

Zardari's name has been mentioned in several alleged corruption schemes. He is also a suspect in the Sept. 20 slaying of his brother-in-law, Murtaza Bhutto. The two men never got along, especially after Murtaza formed a splinter faction of his sister's Pakistan People's Party.

But Benazir Bhutto placed blame for her brother's slaying on Leghari, accusing him of being involved in a conspiracy to murder Murtaza as a way of frightening her. "The bullet that was meant to kill my brother physically was meant to eliminate me politically," she said.

The former prime minister was persistently questioned about the many charges leveled at her government in Leghari's formal order of dismissal--among them, that her government sanctioned police death squads and had illegally wiretapped judges and political opponents.

Bhutto sidestepped such questions. "I will address these charges in a week's time," she said.

Instead she drew parallels between her ouster and the one that occurred 19 years ago involving her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The Bhutto name holds magic in Islamic Pakistan, though its powers have declined amid scandals.

While the Radcliffe- and Oxford-educated Benazir Bhutto has maintained an international reputation as a champion of democracy, increasing numbers here have come to consider her incompetent and vindictive.

Politically, she must hope that the caretaker government stumbles while trying to eliminate corruption. She also needs to revive affection for the Bhutto family.

Much like the Kennedys in the U.S., the powerful Bhuttos have been known for Shakespearean tragedy. Zulfikar Bhutto, a populist hero, was hanged on a flimsy murder charge in 1979. Poison apparently killed Shahnawaz Bhutto, Benazir's other brother, in 1985.

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