Letter: Benazir Bhutto: despot or peace-keeper?

Sir: Jonathan Ford in his article "Fighting Benazir - by fax from Mill Hill" (Section Two, 13 July) says that there are more than 100 criminal charges against Altaf Hussain, leader of the Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM). These are politically motivated allegations and most of them were registered after his departure from Pakistan. In Pakistan it has become a part of the political culture for those in power to register unsubstantiated criminal charges against their opponents.

However, Benazir Bhutto has gone even further. She has amended the legal system to enable her government to use criminal law statutes as a principle instrument of repression against her political adversaries. Recently her government has registered numerous cases including sedition and treason not only against Altaf Hussain but also against Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, his 75-year-old father, leaders of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front and other human rights activists.

Ms Bhutto presents two faces to the world. The one presented to the West is liberal, democratic and secular and the other, shown within Pakistan, is conservative, reactionary and despotic. Ms Bhutto's main support comes from feudal dominated rural Sind and thus feudal lords have an armlock over her government's policies.

On the other hand, Altaf Hussain is the leader of anti-feudal urban Sind with the people's mandate behind him. Virtually every large city in Sind has overwhelmingly voted for him. The main conflict in Sind today is between those who want to retain feudalism and those who want to abolish it.

Yours faithfully,

Mohammed Arif


British Afro-Asian

Solidarity Organisation

London, SW15

19 July