Family feud imperils Bhutto's poll hopes: Benazir's exiled brother Murtaza threatens to oppose her in elections - with his mother's support, Tim McGirk writes from Karachi

ALL that may keep Benazir Bhutto from winning the October elections and becoming Pakistan's next prime minister is her little brother. A bitter dynastic feud is brewing, one that pits Ms Bhutto against her surviving brother, Murtaza, who wants to come home after 16 years of exile, even though he is wanted on charges of murder and hijacking.

The outcome of this quarrel will decide who - the son or the daughter - is the suitable heir to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the charismatic populist who was overthrown as prime minister in 1977 and hanged two years later by the generals. Until now, the mantle has gone undisputedly to Ms Bhutto.

A sharp-willed woman, now 40, Ms Bhutto stuck it out in Pakistan after her father's death. Trapped for four years in jail, then banished abroad, she returned in 1988 and pieced together the fragments of her father's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which had been shattered by mass arrests during the military regime.

That same year, she led her party to victory, and was poised to do it again this October.

Her leading opponent, Nawaz Sharif, the ex-prime minister, has lost backing from the strict religious parties which helped him win in 1990, while his own Pakistan Muslim League lies fractured by dissent.

But Ms Bhutto's brother has popped up. In a Muslim, male-dominated society like Pakistan's, it is usually the son who automatically gets the inheritance. This applies to land, money and political machines. 'He walks like his father and talks like him. I couldn't believe the resemblance,' said one journalist who saw him recently.

Speaking by telephone from Damascus, Mr Bhutto told journalists that he intended to run as an independent candidate for seven national assembly seats and 17 provincial seats in Sindh, the traditional Bhutto fiefdom. Asked why he was fighting against his sister's party, he replied: 'I don't see eye to eye with any of the parties that exist in Pakistan, and I don't want to be associated with any of the tactical steps that the PPP took . . . '

To complicate this family drama even more, Zulfikar's influential widow, Nusrat, announced earlier this month that she would assist her son's election campaign, even though she is chairwoman of Ms Bhutto's party. And, in a move of both practical and symbolic significance, Nusrat Bhutto is letting Mr Bhutto's election team take over her mansions in Karachi and at the ancestral homestead at Larkana, in Sindh, which were Ms Bhutto's campaign fortresses.

As the election nears, baffled party members are trying to work out why Nusrat Bhutto is not helping her daughter more. Some say she wants to see her only living son (her other son, Shahnawaz, was murdered in 1985) restored to eminence in Pakistan and have the terrorist charges against him dropped. Others say that she also wants Mr Bhutto to parry the growing influence of Asif Zardari, Ms Bhutto's husband, who is filling the top party posts with his cronies.

'Murtaza may arrive before, during or after the elections. He could come at any moment,' said his Karachi spokesman, Subak Majeed. If so, Mr Bhutto will probably be arrested and taken straight to jail. It is not known whether he would be released on bail and allowed to campaign. He faces at least 12 charges, ranging from murder to air piracy, which date from the early 1980s, when he was leader of the terrorist al-Zulfikar organisation, which sought revenge against Pakistan's army generals for killing his father. Mr Bhutto arranged for a few young party loyalists to be trained by the pro-Soviet Kabul regime, but it is not clear how much command he exerted over these hotheads, who went back to Pakistan, committed a few blundering terrorist acts and were caught and killed. The generals used al-Zulfikar as a bogey-man to arrest more than 20,000 people, most of them Ms Bhutto's supporters.

Mr Bhutto is hoping that the present neutral caretaker government, led by the Prime Minister, Moeen Qureshi, will give him an amnesty or at least a fair trial. If acquitted, he would then keep whichever assembly seat he won.

Of the two siblings, Ms Bhutto is the more pragmatic and politically astute. She has learnt the art of compromise; Mr Bhutto is more impulsive. While Ms Bhutto opted for civil protest when her father was hanged, Mr Bhutto, who was then 26 and a student of literature at Oxford, decided to take up arms against the mighty Pakistan army. 'Even as a teenager,' wrote the Pakistani magazine Newsline recently, 'Murtaza Bhutto would pitch a tent in the backyard and play Che Guevara with his younger brother, Shahnawaz. His father's death turned these politically loaded childhood games into harsh reality.'

Ms Bhutto has not commented on her brother's possible return, other than to say it is a private family matter. But Mr Bhutto has accused his sister and their party lieutenants of spreading the rumour that his comeback is being staged by the country's powerful intelligence services. 'It's a complete fallacy. It originates from (their) fear, confusion.'

A senior PPP official, Salman Taseer, suggested Ms Bhutto's main rival, Mr Sharif, the ex-prime minister, and her foes in the military establishment want 'to use Murtaza to give the PPP an extremist image, and then they want him to split the party'.

(Photographs omitted)

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup