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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Benazir Bhutto lands in Pakistan today

It’ll be a day to remember, says Pakistan People’s Party, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Oct 18, 2007 10:41 IST
Kamal Siddiqi
Kamal Siddiqi
Hindustan Times

Thousands of people have assembled in Karachi to welcome former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who arrives in Karachi on Thursday morning after eight years of political exile abroad.

The city bears a festive air as buntings and banners are displayed all along the route on which Ms Bhutto will travel as she comes into the city. "It will be a day to remember," promised Sherry Rehman, a close aide of Bhutto and information secretary of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

For her part, Bhutto confirmed to reporters in Dubai that she would be arriving on Thursday. This ends all speculation related to her arrival triggered by repeated requests by President Pervez Musharraf to Bhutto to delay her return to Pakistan.

The reason given by General Musharraf was that the Supreme Court was hearing a case that would decide the fate of presidential elections held earlier this month, in which General Musharraf was unofficially declared the winner.

The nomination papers of President Musharraf were accepted by the Election Commission, but has been challenged in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is hearing the case and has ruled that election results cannot be officially declared until it completes the hearing.

Addressing a press conference in Dubai, Bhutto said, "Nobody can keep me away from Pakistan. I have heard this morning that more than a million people are gathering in Karachi to welcome me."

While this number may be exaggerated, there are several thousand people ready to take part in what promises to be the country's largest political event after General Musharraf seized power in 1999.

"This is peoples' power and this is what the country needs to show the world that the people of Pakistan support moderate leaders and are willing to come out on the streets to show their support," said Azam Khaskheli, a supporter who arrived from Bhutto's ancestral hometown of Larkana, eight hours by road from Karachi.

Security arrangements for Bhutto are very tight. City police chief Azhar Farooqi promises that the arrangements are "fool-proof".

Bhutto's arrival, however, has Musharraf's blessings and the General's coalition partners, the MQM, a major force in the city. This is one reason why people are not expecting any violence.

First Published: Oct 17, 2007 22:46 IST