Benazir Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party(PPP) charged that President Musharraf is partially responsible for the resurgence of the Taliban in areas of her nation as well as in Afghanistan. She claims the Taliban were crushed by American forces in Afghanistan and when they fled to safety in Pakistan, they were able to regroup. “They could not do that unless there is some support from the government or the intelligence.” She is casting her candidacy as the main force capable of halting Pakistan’s movement toward a government in which fundamentalist leaders exert control. Bhutto charges President Musharraf as using the fundamentalist militants in order to gain victory in the January election. She believes only her triumph in the election will result in a government dedicated to moving Pakistan out of medieval thinking and called for major education reforms of the religious madrassas schools. Her political ally, Nawaz Sharif’s petition to stand for public office was rejected by the Musharraf government.
Secretary of State Rice calls for “free and fair elections” in which all parties have equal access to the media, Benazir Bhutto is charging Musharraf with seeking to empower religious fundamentalist, and opposition leaders are denied the right to run for public office. There is a confusing mixture of hope and fear in the midst of an election in which America’s supposed ally is linking his fortunes to cooperating with religious fundamentalist leaders who support the Taliban, an enemy of the United States. A triumph by Musharraf whose fortunes are linked with those of George Bush would only result in aiding forces which are hostile to American interests. Does anyone wonder how the United States wound up in this situation? Is there a coherence in American foreign policy is a question the American people might well pose?