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Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto '73 is reportedly under house arrest in Islamabad after being deposed in a surprise move by Pakistan's president early yesterday.
Peter W. Galbraith '73, a close friend of Bhutto, said she told him in a telephone conversation yesterday morning that the army had surrounded her home after President Ghulam Ishaq Khan legally dissolved her democratically elected government.
Ishaq Khan dismissed the federal legislature and dispatched the army to take over the national television station and telephone exchanges, bringing an abrupt end to Bhutto's 20-month-old government. He scheduled new elections for October 24, imposed a state of emergency and appointed the nation's opposition leader, Mustafa Jatoi, interim prime minister.
In dissolving the National Assembly, the law-making lower house of Pakistan's parliament, Ishaq Khan said Bhutto's government was corrupt and politically inept. As head of state, Ishaq Khan has the constitutional power to dissolve the government if he believes it can no longer carry out its duties.
However, Bhutto and her supporters said the move was an improper attempt by the president and army leaders to seize power for themselves.
"It could be the prelude of a return of certainly de facto, if not de jure, military rule," said Galbraith, who is a staff member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Ishaq Khan's action took Bhutto by surprise, Galbraith said. In a news conference, the prime minister herself called the president's charges a "slander campaign" and vowed to fight the decision.
At Harvard, Aga Khan Professor of Iranian Richard N. Frye called the move "highly unusual and not really proper according to democratic procedures.
"Usually, the president will not dissolve any government unless it has been beaten at the polls," Frye said. "In this case, apparently the president was influenced by either the opposition or, more likely, the military."
But Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, the Pakistani army's chief of staff, said the military moves were taken to assure an orderly transition to other civilian authorities, and were not an attempt by the military to seize power.
"We are not involved in politics," said Aslam Beg. "We are not going to get involved."
Bhutto was hailed as a hero in 1988 after she became the first woman to lead a modern Moslem nation, restoring democracy to Pakistan after 11 years of military rule under Mohammad Zia ul-Haq. Last year, she spoke at Harvard's Commencement, where she was awarded an honorary degree.
In her own country, however, Bhutto'spopularity has steadily eroded amidst increasingcharges of corruption among senior officials andmembers of her family.
At a hastily called news conference yesterday,Ishaq Khan said that Bhutto's government "haswillfully undermined and impaired the work of theConstitution, resulting in discord, confrontationand deadlock, adversely affecting the integrity,solidarity and well-being of Pakistan. Corruptionand nepotism in the federal government has reachedsuch proportions that the orderly functioning ofthe government no longer carries public faith andcredibility."
But Galbraith said that Ishaq Khan, whom hecalled an "old protege" of Zia ul-Haq, had opposedBhutto since her election.
"He cohabitated not well at all with the youngwomen prime minister of a party vehemently opposedto Zia ul-Haq," Galbraith said. "He and the armytook advantage of the current crisis to get rid ofa foe."
Although Galbraith would not describe in detailhis conversation with Bhutto, he said she did notseem overly intimidated by the army unitssurrounding her house.
"She's an extremely brave person, and has facedthis sort of situation many times," he said.
Those at Harvard who know Bhutto said yesterdaythat they think she will take every possible stepto regain power.
"She has never yet been known to give up," saidWarburg Professor of Economics Emeritus JohnKenneth Galbraith, who is Peter Galbraith's fatherand an old friend of Bhutto. "We all have hopesshe will be back.
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