Benazir Bhutto arrived in Pakistan in October 2007 against the advice of the Musharraf establishment. She had pushed the envelope on the deal she had concluded with Musharraf and the party he was leading, arousing all kinds of misgivings in the establishment. Now that she was in Pakistan ahead of schedule, the panoply of power in Islamabad had to suffer her.

As Benazir went around the country trying to revive the enthusiasm the electorate had once felt for her and her party, she would be aware of the cards she had up her sleeve. She was a part of the US policy of ‘diversification of support’ — the policy the US turned to after realising that Musharraf was either playing a double game or was simply not able to convince the military establishment to act effectively against the Taliban terrorists and their patron al Qaeda.

American support to her was to be conditional to her pushing Musharraf towards actions he was not taking, especially in the increasingly troubled FATA region where his subordinate generals were concluding predictably useless ‘peace deals’ with Taliban leaders who were determined to eliminate Musharraf and pluck Pakistan away from its alliance against terrorism. But she would have to strategise her return in the light of her past experience with the Pakistani establishment.

The al Qaeda, put off by the United State’s policy insistence to set up a rival to Musharraf to make him act faster and more effectively against the spreading counter-writ of the Taliban, would have issued new CD messages with Al Zawahiri proclaiming that a woman could not be a leader of the Muslims. This would have been echoed by allied madrassas across Pakistan. Growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan would have been used by the ISI to make people see her as an American Trojan horse sent in to enslave Pakistan.

Anti-PPP elements within the establishment — much abetted by the PML Q’s inherited hostility towards the Bhuttos — would have played ball. Once again the deal between Musharraf and Benazir would have caused rifts. The rightwing press would have dug up her past statements supporting Dr A Q Khan’s surrender to the Americans despite the fact that she had denied them. She would have soon to contend with clear signs of pre-election rigging in favour of a heavy tilt in favour of PML Q.

PPP regional leaders would have engaged in bickering with their counterparts over how much the coming vote would go to the two parties riding together as a coalition for the next five years. Much bitterness would have flowed from this, mostly over how power was to be shared in Punjab, where Pervaiz Elahi had run a good government and was nursing ambitions of becoming prime minister. The PPP would have insisted on pocketing Punjab as a part of the coalition deal.

The Express Tribune