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Monday, July 27, 1998 Published at 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK

World: South Asia

Charges faced by Bhutto family

Pakistan's former prime minister faces a string of allegations

Alastair Lawson, of the BBC's South Asia Regional Unit, looks at the background to Benazir Bhutto's court appearance:

Benazir Bhutto is by no means the first prime minister of Pakistan to be accused of corruption.

In fact the overwhelming majority of Pakistan's civilian and military leaders have faced similar allegations.

The key difference is the wide range of charges faced by Miss Bhutto, coupled with the fact that none of her predecessors has publicly appeared in court.

At least six similar cases are pending against her in addition to separate charges faced by her husband Asif Zardari.

Father hanged

Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was deposed as prime minister in 1979 and hanged by the army.

However, his trial was held behind closed doors, and was widely criticised by the West.

Miss Bhutto and her husband are accused of receiving large pay-offs in numerous business deals, many involving government contracts.

The investigations against them have also involved court cases in Switzerland - which recently froze her financial assets - and in Britain.

To make matters more complicated for her, Mr Zardari has also been accused in the courts of playing a role in the murder of Miss Bhutto's brother and political rival, Murtaza.

Miss Bhutto's supporters argue that the charges against her are politically inspired, and stem from a long-running feud between herself and the current Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.

They say the Pakistani Government is in effect bullying the judiciary to take action against Miss Bhutto in order to distract attention from the country's economic crisis.

Between now and the resumption of her trial in August, Miss Bhutto is likely to reiterate her claim that the allegations against her are part of a long-running conspiracy campaign against her Pakistan Peoples' Party.

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