Stage Set for Unrest Ahead of Pakistan's Elections This week, Former Prime Minister Narwaz Sharif arrived in Pakistan only to be charged with corruption and sent back into exile. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto announced she would return from exile next month. The stage is set for a period of political rivalry and unrest in a country.
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Stage Set for Unrest Ahead of Pakistan's Elections

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Stage Set for Unrest Ahead of Pakistan's Elections

Stage Set for Unrest Ahead of Pakistan's Elections

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tried to return to Pakistan this week, but it turned into a fleeting visit rather than a return home. Mr. Sharif who'd been turned out by General Pervez Musharraf in the 1999 coup was detained at Islamabad's airport just long enough to get a cup of tea, charged with corruption and then sent back to Saudi Arabia.

The Pakistani Supreme Court had ruled that Mr. Sharif was entitled to return from exile, so the stage is set for a period of political rivalry and unrest in a country that the United States depends on to fight against terrorism.

Husain Haqqani is director of the Center Of International Relations at Boston University. He served as an adviser to Mr. Sharif and the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who has apparently reached an agreement with President Musharraf that will keep her also from being deported when she returns from exile next month.

Ambassador Haqqani joins us from member station WBUR in Boston. Thanks so much from being with us.

Ambassador HUSAIN HAQQANI (Director, Center of International Relations, Boston University): It's a pleasure being here.

SIMON: And I wonder from what you've been able to find out talking to friends and supporters back in Pakistan. What's the reaction of Mr. Sharif being turned back?

Ambassador HAQQANI: Most people are annoyed by the fact that a citizen of Pakistan was not allowed to enter the country despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had categorically stated that he had an inalienable right to return home.

SIMON: Mr. Haqqani, civilian governments in Pakistan have often been accused of and prosecuted for rampant corruption, Mr. Sharif and Benazir Bhutto among them. Does this, if I might put it this way, give democracy a bad name in Pakistan sometimes?

Ambassador HAQQANI: Pakistan has a long history of a very interventionist military. Now, the easiest way to discredit politicians who might actually put the country on a park in which the military will no longer remain the appendant institution, the easiest way to do that is to scandalize the civilian government.

I'm not saying there's not corruption in Pakistan. Of course, there is. But that said, I think that the fact that after 11 years, not a single case against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been proven in any court of law anywhere.

That in case of Mr. Sharif also, there has been no judicial disposition of the relegations tends me to think that basically the military and its civilian supporters tends to overplay the argument of corruption.

Furthermore, the Pakistani military has also discredited itself by interfering too much in civilian matters. Only when the military has regained its credibility as an institution of national security will they be actually be able to defeat the terrorists in Pakistan.

SIMON: Let me put this quite naively. What's the drawback, the problem, the hesitation about having nationwide elections and the Muslim Leagues on the ballot and the PPPs on the ballot and the Imran Khan's party is on the ballot, General Musharraf's party is on the ballot and letting the people decide straight away?

Ambassador HAQQANI: Well, the problem is very simple. The election, if it is free and fair and if everybody is on the ballot, will basically show how Pakistani civilians no longer like the idea of the country being run by the military and that is something that General Musharraf certainly does not want and the military also is reluctant to accept.

SIMON: Mr. Haqqani, thanks so much.

Ambassador HAQQANI: You're welcome.

SIMON: Husain Haqqani, director of the Center For International Relations at Boston University.

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