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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

The Fall of Bhutto

Picking up the pieces will be hard


BENAZIR BHUTTO HAS NEVER been a gracious loser -- and yet so crushing was her defeat that the cocky aristocrat had little to say beyond the usual vague charges of election fraud. Why did Bhutto crash and burn? Members of her party blame her husband Asif Ali Zardari, widely reviled as Pakistan's most corrupt politician. He is in jail on charges of murdering his wife's brother and political rival Murtaza. In truth, Bhutto's fall probably has as much to do with her autocratic style and inability to govern a fractious nation. Early on, she raised Pakistanis' expectations but failed to implement the massive structural overhaul necessary to bring the nation prosperity and stability. Bhutto was also hampered by the suspicion that she is more at home in London's posh Knightsbridge district than in her hometown in Sindh province.

In fact, rumors have been swirling that Bhutto plans to ditch politics and settle in Britain, if she can get her husband out of jail. Bhutto says she would rather die in Pakistan a persecuted oppositionist than live in Western luxury. "I don't think quitting politics is an option for her," says an associate. "She has only to bide her time. Pakistani politics is a pendulum. It always swings back. We've known all along this wasn't our swing because we won in 1993." But Bhutto's failures may have exasperated even her most forgiving supporters. Still, she won 30% of the popular vote and remains a potent force.

Not that dealing with defeat will be easy, especially for a woman who by many accounts has become a loner. "She used to be close to her mother and had a few genuine friends outside Pakistan," says an associate. "Now she keeps to herself, doesn't trust people." And Zardari? Bhutto and her husband have argued about party matters and politics, but people close to the couple say rumors of a serious feud are exaggerated. "She is terribly upset that he is in jail," says a party leader. "She'd rather have him beside her at this critical juncture in her life." If Bhutto needed a lesson in humility this was it.

-- By Assif Shameen

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