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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Should Benazir Bhutto go back?
Should she return to Pakistan?
The Supreme Court in Pakistan has ordered a retrial of the country's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, suspending an earlier conviction on corruption charges.

Ms Bhutto says the ruling means she can now return home from exile.

Mrs Bhutto, who has maintained her innocence throughout, said the charges against her were drummed up by her arch rival, Nawaz Sharif, who was the prime minister at the time of her conviction.

Should Mrs Bhutto return to Pakistan? Does the ruling establish the independence of the judiciary? Does it bode well for a return to democracy?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Pakistan needs leaders who can prove they want to build the country's future, not their personal assets, which Benazir and Zardari have been doing throughout her rule. People like that should never have the chance to come back as leaders, but should be made to return their illegally acquired wealth to the Pakistani citizens to whom it belongs.
S.A. Hameed, USA


I feel she should therefore be allowed to return, and given a fair chance to prove her innocence

Ashish Kumar, USA/India
One of the reasons why Benazir is appreciated in the west is because of her seemingly moderate views on several political and religious issues. I believe that during her term, the agendas for governance were being dictated by the military, and in this sense I see her rule as being different from that of Nawaz, though at the end both were brought down by the military establishment. I feel she should therefore be allowed to return, and given a fair chance to prove her innocence.
Ashish Kumar, USA/India

Pakistan desperately needs money to survive financially. It is paying its debt through the nose to keep the country running. The military can strike a deal with Bhutto like asking her and her husband to bring back something like $1 billion stashed away in foreign banks back to the country. At a time when Pakistan needs someone to project itself in the West, Bhutto can do the job but first as I say, bring the money back.
Mustafa Zulqarni, Pakistan

These politicians let down and cheat the public, yet they keep trying to get back to power. It's time to move on miss Bhutto, please stay away from Pakistan.
Rafaqat Ullah, Pakistan/Britain

She should be forced to sign a declaration for having no objection to transfer the ownership of foreign bank accounts and other prime properties like Surrey palace to government of Pakistan. This will clear her guilt and also help Pakistan to clear the massive foreign debts.
Mohsin Meer, Saudi Arabia


Both Bhuttos and Sharifs had their shot and they blew it, big time...

Zulfiqar Ali, Oklahoma/ Pakistan
Although I consider myself a big supporter of democracy, but in Pakistan's case I believe that military rulers are much better than the so called democratic representatives. Both Bhuttos and Sharifs had their shot and they blew it, big time...
Zulfiqar Ali, Oklahoma/ Pakistan

Mrs. Bhutto should step down from her lofty podium and realise that Pakistani leadership is NOT her birthright. She had two chances to rule, and failed miserably. If she has any hope of sustaining her political future, she must recognise, if not publicly acknowledge, the type of Zardari cronyism that has cost her the premiership. Wake up Mrs. Bhutto!
Jehangir Badar, Pakistan

The West, particularly, have this romantic notion of Benazir, that has nothing to do with reality. Corruption and cronyism during the reign of Benazir and Nawaz Sharif reached new heights. The army is seen by the people of Pakistan as being the only unifying force in the country and rightly so, which is why you see a high level of acceptance to Military rule in Pakistan, after all, all the common people want is peace and stability, not petty politics.
Kevin Fernandes, Canada


Some form of democracy is better than no democracy

U Ally, Pakistan/Tanzania/USA
It seems to me that it is only right that Ms Bhutto comes back to Pakistan and stands trial. With regard to her running for power - it is arguable. At the end of the day some form of democracy is better than no democracy. She may have made her mistakes but she is the only person I see in Pakistani politics right now who has the charisma required to be in office. Foreign policy and interaction with the United States has unfortunately become more and more crucial for a country to prosper, and only she can improve relations. Hopefully Ms Bhutto has learnt from her mistakes.
U Ally, Pakistan/Tanzania/USA

I think Bhutto should return home instead of living in exile - and face the truth. If she and her family are not corrupt then the people of Pakistan will elect her again. A major problem of Third World countries is the national leaders and prime ministers are elected from a certain number of families. These rulers abuse power and dominate and dictate to the whole nation generation after generation - it is a family domination not a true democracy.
Ebraham, UK

If Benazir Bhutto is innocent, as she claims, she needs to clear her name and face the charges in a court of law. There is little doubt that she is a national leader, heading one of Pakistan's largest parties. It will be in the interest of the federation if she comes back and faces her opponents after clearing her name. Military dictatorships, however benign, are no substitute for democracy and Benazir has a role to play.
Naveed Khan, Pakistan

Pakistan is a country with less than 20% of its population who can read newspapers etc. How can one expect Pakistani people to make an informed decision and vote? Democracy is fine when the population is free and informed otherwise it is an exercise in futility.

Pakistan needs at least 10 years to get things in order. Special emphasis should be paid to promote education in Pakistan and bring in land reforms. Then and only then can we even afford to discuss politics and democracy. We should tell Benazir to stay put in the UAE.
Faiz Hanif, USA

I have lived in and out of the country in the past two decades and have seen life degenerate under democratic regimes, especially hers. I hope that the military government, under international pressure, does not make hasty decisions and leave unfinished what they have started - they are principally accountable to the people of Pakistan.
Mohsin Ali, Pakistan/US/Canada

Don't you just love this, when the going is good run to Pakistan - make hay while the sun shines, when times get bad - seek asylum for a number of years until the time is ripe to go back again. No, she should not return back to Pakistan - in general all such politicians who play with their countries and then return back should either be banned or be put behind bars.
Sean D'Souza, USA


The best thing she can do is stay away

Abdul, Pakistan
Mr Wamiq Ansari is suffering from delusion if he believes Benazir will get us out of this economic turmoil. It was she and Nawaz who got us into this mess. If Benazir really wants to help Pakistan and democracy the best thing she can do is stay away.
Abdul, Pakistan

What is this? A horrible nightmare playing in a loop? When would the people of Pakistan be rid of the likes of Benazir, Nawaz and the rest of them. No matter how much you shoo them away they just keep coming back to feed on the weak. People of Pakistan are you this sadistic, to allow yourselves to be robbed and beaten generation after generation?
KZ, USA

I strongly believe that Pakistan cannot survive another corrupt leader's reign.
Bader Khan, USA

Yes Benazir should go to Pakistan. It's not that she is a great leader or anything, but to let the justice run it's course. She does not stand for democracy, in fact she stands for feudalism. I have got to say that this is the most democratic military dictatorship the world has ever seen. The military government of Pervez Musharraf should continue it's good work, and never allow these people to plunder our nation again and again.
Qaiser Raja, U.K

Ms. Bhutto has had two chances to prove her competence and patriotism to the nation. In both of her tenures as Prime Minister, she failed not only to live up to the particular expectations that she as a highly educated, secular-minded woman commanded, but failed to provide even a semblance of proper governance. Her administrations were characterised by gross corruption and negligence. Bhutto is a failure. Yes she should return to Pakistan; only to face the dozens of cases in which she is accused of corruption. One court victory is insignificant when you consider that Ms. Bhutto is facing a whole array of charges that have yet to be resolved.
Imran, Pakistan


We need people who can give us economic stability

Ali Hameed, USA
It's because of leaders like Benazir and Nawaz Sharif that many Pakistanis are working outside of their own country, away from everything they love. Leaders like them have plundered the country and robbed its people out of what rightfully belongs to them. Pakistanis don't need sham democracy we need people who can give us economic stability. If military rule provides it then so be it. Keep Benazir and the likes behind bars where they belong!
Ali Hameed, USA

I was interested and a little amused at the pattern of responses I saw in this forum. With one exception, all contributors of Pakistani extraction (going by their names) appeared to think of Benazir as a corrupt politician. The few who were not (Pakistani) seemed to voice the sort of opinion that I have noted often in the foreign press and in foreign minds; that Benazir is a victim of military dictators. Perhaps it is time to send out an invitation to all those who lean toward the latter opinion:

"Live, work and exist in Pakistan on a day-to-day basis. Face the opportunities lost, the funds embezzled, the innocent killed, the environment polluted. Wake up with these things every morning and take them to bed every night. Only then can you fully appreciate the legacy of our leaders and our people".
Najeeb Shirwany, United States

Ms. Bhutto should return to Pakistan to stand trail for the charges brought against her and should be treated justly. As far as her running for the office of Prime Minister is concerned, she should be banned just like Nawaz Sharif from entering political arena. She is one of the many who promised to be Pakistan's saviour and took helm of this country and sailed it further into ever deepening troubled waters of ethnic, linguistic differences and financial instability.

Her Father was, in my opinion, one of the greatest politicians in the world. But Ms Bhutto is far from what her father was and has brought more shame and disgrace to his name. Her return and standing trial for the charges against her will be one of the many harsh and tough steps Pakistan will have to take to be back on the road to recovery and restoration of democratic rule in Pakistan.
Umer, Pakistan - USA

Benazir must return to Pakistan to face the court of law. All such leaders who have looted the national wealth and damaged the economy or have done any damages to Pakistan find the UK as their safe heaven. They do crimes and go straight away to Britain and stay there will full freedom and insist that they are "Patriotic Pakistanis". I don't feel that the judiciary is free and out of the government's control - especially with army rule, the judiciary cannot be free.
Ayaz Bader, Pakistan


Any civilian government has to govern with one hand tied behind its back

T. Varadaraj, USA
The real question is whether the military will allow ANY civilian government to function to its fullest capacity. As Pakistan's history has clearly illustrated, any civilian government has to govern with one hand tied behind its back, what with having to divert the majority of Pakistan's meagre resources towards the stand-off against India, whether it likes it or not. Hence, even if she returns and assuming she regains power, she'll be set up for failure even before she starts. That's the tragic irony of Pakistan.
T. Varadaraj, USA

I believe Pakistan is much better off under the military regime for a 1000 years than bearing more of what the feudal lords and the industrialists have done. I do not have anything personally against Benazir except the fact that she has shattered the nation's hope and great expectations of her and her party. Democracy cannot work in a country where people are massively illiterate, uneducated and economically and mentally in the shackles of slavery. We must educate them and free them by all means before letting them make the nation's decisions at the ballot box. Personally, I feel the Army is doing a good job by not squandering public wealth. Please, I ask the western nations, let them stay in power.
Sheharyar Shaikh, Canada

Ms Bhutto and Mr Nawaz Sharif are of the same ilk: power corrupts. It will only be the people of Pakistan who will be able to change their own lives. The military body in power is a catalyst for this change. As an outsider looking in, I hope the people of Pakistan take the tough decision and look for a new way out from the corruption which riddles the country.
A.K, London

Benazir should not be allowed back in the country. I was born under martial law, and I can accept to die under martial law. I prefer martial law rather than corrupt politicians, who will do nothing more than corrupt the government and the country even more.
M. Umair Alam, USA


She might have forgotten her past deeds, but the people of Pakistan have not

TH Malik, Canada
Benazir's return to Pakistan and return to power are two different things. She should go back to Pakistan to face various court cases against her. Maybe she thinks that the grass is looking green again, but she must not forget that she and her associates contributed to the present state of the country and its poor people. She might have forgotten her past deeds, but the people of Pakistan have not.
TH Malik, Canada

While I am willing to accept that Benazir has done nothing for Pakistan so far, her return to Pakistan is important. It would help galvanise the democratic forces and at the same can only be good for Pakistan. She would also be a counterweight to the growing jehadi forces a fact which should make all supporters of civil society happy
Harsh Desai, India


Pakistan has been drifting

RR, USA/ India
Whether the re-trial would be a fair one, that's a different question, and whether or not that outcome will be accepted by both sides and more so by the public - that's another unknown. Pakistan has been drifting. It'll continue on that course UNLESS its people say enough is enough, and chart out a different course for themselves. Military governments are NOT the order of the day !
RR, USA/ India

I have no idea where Mr Wamiq Ansari gets his information about Benazir's "mind and power to get Pakistan out of its economic turmoil". The era of Benazir and Nawaz will go down in Pakistan's history as the forgotten decade. Our country stagnated in every sense of the word while our neighbour has achieved unprecedented heights. Only a fool, or a sadist, would wish her return to power in Pakistan.
Ahmed Hamdani, USA

Why she should go back to Pakistan? For what?? To plunder, to ruin the economy, the institutions and to play with the destiny of the poor people of Pakistan??
T. Hameed, Toronto, Canada

Pakistan needs Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari like she needs a hole in the head.
Nadia Akhtar, Newcastle


Please, please don't let her back in the country

N. Khan, UK
I don't know if she will face a fair trial but please whatever the legal issues are (and the all the loopholes her fancy lawyers can find) please, please don't let her back in the country. Both her and Nawaz Sharif only ever helped their cronies whenever they were in power and life for ordinary Pakistanis just got worse. I just don't understand why the West loves her. The only reason seems to be that she was a woman in a Muslim country and for this they forgave her for being a typical Third World corrupt leader. The truth is she never did anything for women in Pakistan and the only reason she became PM was because her surname was Bhutto not because she was a woman.
N. Khan, UK

It is good news for Benazir who has been all along telling the world that she is innocent. It may not be good news for those who firmly believe that she was really corrupt when she was the PM of Pakistan. If she is proved guilty as a result of the retrial then she must be punished and should not be allowed to contest elections.
Albert P'Rayan, Rwanda/ India

Benazir and her husband had ruined Pakistan already and the nation can't afford get ruined anymore. She should stay away from Pakistan, it's better for her and for the country too. If she does need to come home then she should be mentally prepared for the fair trial.
Sohail Elahi, Pakinstan


If the former Prime Minister is really innocent, she should have no problem in returning to her country

Albert Devakaram, India
The news that the Supreme Court in Pakistan has ordered a retrial of Ms Benazir Bhutto is most welcome as it gives an impression to the outside world that the court is fair and independent. If it can be trusted in the light of its present ruling, and the military junta does not in any way interfere in the judicial process, then its current ruling is more than encouraging, since there is a possibility that democracy will return to Pakistan at some stage or the other, which is good for peace-loving neighbours like India. If the former Prime Minister is really innocent, she should have no problem in returning to her country and securing her conviction. Fresh cases are, however, being slapped against her and hence there is no guarantee that she will not be arrested the moment she lands on Pakistani soil.
Albert Devakaram, India

Benazir should return to Pakistan. Our country badly needs a strong leader. Benazir has got the mind and power to get Pakistan out of this economic turmoil. She has done it in the past and she will do it again!!
Wamiq Ansari, Pakistan

Whether or not you agree with Bhutto's performance as a national leader, is she safe with the present regime? If she returns, might she suffer the same fate as her father?
Andy Millward, UK

If Benazir has started to believe in the judiciary, then she should come back and face an independent trial from an independent judiciary.
Munir Husain Qureshi, Saudi Arabia


She must allow the legal process to be undertaken

Furhan Majid, UK
If Ms Bhutto wishes to be cleared, she has no choice but to return and face the charges. She must allow the legal process to be undertaken, whether it finds in her favour or not. It is a crucial step towards Pakistan returning to a democracy.
Furhan Majid, UK

Courage is one thing, fairness is another. If Benazir Bhutto cannot be guaranteed a fair trial and protection of her human rights in Pakistan, she is justified in refusing to return.
Andy Millward, UK

Bhutto had her chance and she blew it big time, she should stay away now, Pakistan has suffered enough at the hands of her and her husband.
Imran

If Ms Bhutto truly thinks that she is innocent (as she claims) then she should have the courage to go back and stand trial. But I doubt that she has such courage.
Jonathon D'Souza, London

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See also:

06 Apr 01 | South Asia
Retrial ordered for Bhutto
01 Mar 01 | South Asia
Timeline: Pakistan
01 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
03 Apr 01 | South Asia
Bhutto hearing over
27 Feb 01 | South Asia
Pakistan lawyers strike for democracy
09 Aug 00 | South Asia
Politics ban for Sharif and Bhutto
06 Apr 01 | South Asia
Benazir Bhutto's extraordinary career
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