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 allpowerful Allah.
For good measure, she also said President Farooq Leghari, her onetime comrade, was a coward, a traitor and, to be brutally honest about it, not very bright. “All his life, he will be like Lady Macbeth, saying, ‘Out damned spot.”’
The spot that allegedly made its indelible stain on him came the 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 on each occasion.
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 due to accusations of corruption required a good deal of coordinated effort, as well as the tacit approval of a restless, meddlesome army.
Defiant as most her remarks were, she was very 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 importantly, what will become of her husband, Asif Ali Zardari?
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, according to Ershad Haqqin, a spokesman for the government of acting Prime Minister Miraj Khalid, appointed by Leghari.
Zardari’s name has been mentioned in several alleged corruption schemes. Looming more seriously, he is also a suspect in the Sept. 20 murder of his brother-in-law, Murtaza Bhutto.