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Bhutto's Party Flounders, Bickers in Pakistan

At The Daily Standard, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Threatswatch's Nick Grace have co-written an article looking at the state of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. In Shattered Hopes, they write:

BUT THESE ARE NOT THE BEST of circumstances, and [Bhutto's widower] Asif Ali [Zardari] may find it difficult to hold the PPP together. Islamabad-based political commentator Ahmed Quraishi told us that the Bhutto family is privately suspicious of the will that Asif Ali relied on to take over the party's reins. "Nobody knew about it, not even the Bhutto family, nor any of Benazir Bhutto's political aides nor close associates within the party," he said.

"Zardari's rise to leadership marks the beginning of dissension within the PPP," B. Raman, former head of counterterrorism for India's external intelligence agency, told us. "It was a very unwise decision of the PPP to endorse Zardari, and very unwise of Benazir to have endorsed her husband."

There are already signs that Raman may be correct. Some members of the Bhutto family (who have controlled the PPP since its inception forty years ago) have signaled their rejection of the legitimacy of both Bilawal and Asif Ali. Though Bilawal recently adopted "Bhutto" as his middle name, some family members do not consider him a part of the dynastic line. "Bilawal is actually a member of the Zardari family," Saifullah Mehsud, a research analyst with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, told us. "They repositioned him as a Bhutto, but lineage is traced from the father and not the mother. He is a Zardari son."

Grace and Gartenstein-Ross conclude that the significant troubles of the PPP post-Bhutto, while not fatal, do not bode well for US interests.

Even if the PPP does not collapse under the weight of internal bickering, the odds are overwhelmingly against anyone in the party leadership accomplishing the goals that Benazir Bhutto had upon her return to Pakistan. Since the PPP is Pakistan's only secular opposition party with true national reach, its weakening is significant for U.S. strategic interests.

The entire article can be read by clicking the Weekly Standard link in this post's 'Notes' section in the right column.