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Benazir returns

By V. Venkatesan

AS cliffhangers go, it could not have been more suspenseful. Even a week after the results of the October 6 National Assembly elections in Pakistan were declared, it was not quite clear who had won and would the Government.

But after days of wheeling and dealing to win friends and influence some newly elected Members of the National Assembly, Pakistan Democratic Front leader Beanazir Bhutto was on October 19 sworn in Prime Minister, for the second time. Barely hours earlier, she defeated her rival, Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan Muslim League nominee for the top post, by 121 votes to 72 in the 217-member Assembly. The race had been all but won on October 17 when the PDF's nominees for the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Yousuf Raza Gillani and Zafar Ali Shah respectively, were elected in marginally more keen contests.

The focus then shifted to the Provincial Assemblies, in three of which (barring Sind, where the PDF romped home comfortably) alignments were still taking shape. In Punjab, the politically crucial province, the PDF, its bargaining power greatly enhanced by its Government at the Centre, cobbled together a working majority. Its nominee, Manzoor Watto (of the breakaway PML faction), was elected Chief Minister after he defeated Nawaz Sharif's brother, Shahbaz Sharif, in a straight contest 131-105 in the 248-member House. Bearded on his home turf, Nawaz Sharif was left licking his electoral wounds.

Two days after assuming office, Benazir flew to Cyprus for the Commonwealth summit. And returning home, she won a vote of confidence in the new National Assembly on October 27 by 122 votes to 0 (Nawaz Sharif's party abstained from the vote). Democracy, it appears, is back in business in Pakistan. n

(Published in Frontline, November 19, 1993)

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A manhunt ends