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His Wife is Not on the Next Flight

2 minute read
Tim McGirk | Lahore and Ghulam Hasnain | Karachi

Asif Ali Zardari faced a nasty homecoming when he flew from Dubai to Lahore last Saturday. More than 13,000 policemen cordoned off the airport and Lahore’s main crossroads to keep thousands from welcoming the husband of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Zardari had barely unfastened his seat belt when police boarded the aircraft and hauled him away in an armed motorcade to his residence. As police bundled him off, Zardari yelled: “I’ve seen jail, and I’m ready to go again.”

Zardari is no stranger to the whims of Pakistani justice. After Bhutto was dismissed as Prime Minister in 1996, he spent nearly eight years in prison on allegations of corruption, although he was eventually acquitted of the charges. Released last year, he flew to Dubai to join his three children and Bhutto—but vowed to come back to prepare the way for her return. Lahore police officials said Zardari was being held in “protective custody.” Party insiders say this is all part of a strategy by President Pervez Musharraf to keep Bhutto’s party under a tight rein. They say the President has sent feelers to Bhutto that she may be able to return home—but only if she does not challenge him directly. Musharraf himself was enjoying a much more cordial homecoming on Saturday: he flew to the Indian capital New Delhi, where he was raised before migrating to Pakistan, to watch a cricket match between India and Pakistan.

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