- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Pakistani immigration authorities currently put all incoming airline passengers through a quick computer scan to keep known terrorists from slipping into the country, but over the next month they have one more person to look out for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Now in self-exile in London, Mrs. Bhutto has vowed she will return shortly to take part in the Oct. 10 general elections. President Pervez Musharraf says she will be arrested when she lands in Pakistan.
"I am determined to go back to serve my countrymen," Mrs. Bhutto told the Associated Press in London on Thursday. She said she would come home "much before the elections," but did not know when.
"I will contest elections," she insisted.
Mrs. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party is preparing a big welcome. Huge crowds of party supporters could show up at the airport, making it difficult for police to keep control or arrest and whisk her away.
Mrs. Bhutto was ousted as prime minister in 1996 amid a corruption scandal and left the country. She and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, were found guilty of corruption in April 1999 and were sentenced to five-year jail terms, fined and disqualified from politics for seven years.
In July, Mrs. Bhutto was sentenced to a further three-year prison term for failing to appear in court to answer corruption charges. Her party claims the charges were trumped up to keep her from returning home and challenging Gen. Musharraf.
Mrs. Bhutto's attorneys have filed an appeal in the Sindh High Court against her conviction. On Thursday, the court scheduled the hearing for Aug. 27.
Meanwhile, in Mrs. Bhutto's home district of Larkana, members of her party filed papers Thursday nominating her to run for a seat in the National Assembly.
The nomination application, however, is likely to be rejected since Gen. Musharraf has decreed that no one convicted of a crime can run for office.
Nawaz Sharif, another exiled former prime minister who was ousted in 1999 by Gen. Musharraf, has said he has no plans to return home from Saudi Arabia. Mr. Sharif has nominated his brother, Shahbaz, as the leader of his Pakistan Muslim League party. But his brother, who is also in exile, is unlikely to be allowed to return home to contest the elections.
Should Mrs. Bhutto succeed in campaigning in the October elections, her party could win enough seats in the National Assembly to rock the boat of Gen. Musharraf, who has named himself president for the next five years at least.
However, it is still uncertain that Mrs. Bhutto can sweep to victory in the elections. According to latest straw polls, the parties of both Mrs. Bhutto and Mr. Sharif are running neck and neck with 21 percent of the vote.
The two parties have joined forces to challenge Gen. Musharraf, and chances are high that the alliance could sweep the polls, making his hold on power tenuous.

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