All political activity has been banned for a month in Pakistan. A member of the?
All political activity has been banned for a month in Pakistan. A member of the military government has said this was done because politicians were trying to exploit recent outbreaks of violence. And in a few days, the Lahore High Court is due to deliver its verdict in the trial of the former Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who is charged with complicity in a political murder.
SYNOPSIS: It is just a year since Mr. Bhutto was at the height of his power. His Pakistan People's Party won a decisive election victory last March, and he was sworn in by President Chaudhry for a new term of office.
It brought him nothing but trouble. Two months of rioting followed in Pakistan's main cities, in support of opposition charges that the elections had been rigged. By the time it ended, more than 300 lives had been lost.
In Rawalpindi, the demonstrators had planned a march to Mr. Bhutto's house, but were stopped by police. Karachi, Hyderabad and Lahore were put under martial law.
Mr. Bhutto held talks with the opposition, led by Maulana Mufti Mahmud, and finally agreed to new elections in October. The two sides were still arguing about safeguards when the army intervened.
The new military government was proclaimed on July 5th, It was headed by the Army Chief of Staff, General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.
Mr. Bhutto was brought before the High Court in Lahore, charged in the first place with complicity in the murder of a political opponent. This case is now coming to an end, but other charges have been filed against him, alleging election rigging and the misuse of government funds. Mr. Bhutto was released on bail after the first hearing, but has been in prison since the middle of last September. His supporters claim that the military government is afraid of his popularity if he were allowed to go free.
While he is in gaol, the party is being led by his wife, Begum Nasrut Bhutto. She herself has been put under house arrest five times under the martial law regulations.
General Zia had originally said that elections would be held last October under army supervision. But two weeks before polling day, he postponed them indefinitely. he insists that the charges against Mr. Bhutto and many other politicians must be disposed of first. The General was asked if he thought Mr. Bhutto's popularity would be affected even if he were convicted.
It could be months yet before election crowds are out again in Pakistan. For the next month, any political activity whatever will be illegal.