Bhutto returns to teeming crowds in Pakistan

UPDATE 4:56 p.m.: A bomb blast near the truck carrying former Prime Minister Bhutto has killed at least 51 and injured over 150 more, the Associated Press reports. Bhutto was unharmed and whisked away by security.

Bhutto’s back! Zeeshan Haider reports for Reuters:

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ended eight years of self-exile on Thursday, returning to Karachi where hundreds of thousands of supporters thronged the streets to welcome her home.

“I am thankful to God, I am very happy that I’m back in my country and I was dreaming of this day,” a tearful Bhutto told Reuters as she disembarked an Emirates flight from Dubai and kissed a Koran once she stepped on Pakistani soil.

Bhutto returned to lead her Pakistan People’s Party into national elections meant to return the country to civilian rule.

For years Bhutto had vowed to return to Pakistan to end military dictatorship, yet she is coming back as a potential ally for President Pervez Musharraf, the army chief who took power in a 1999 coup.

Read the whole story at the above link. While several stumbling blocks remain – the courts have yet to rule on Musharraf’s reelection as President, and his power to grant Bhutto amnesty is also being challenged – the alliance between these two leaders, Musharraf representing the military and Bhutto, the only female ever elected head of state of a Muslim nation, with her moderate political party, represents the best chance for Pakistan both to return to democracy and to resist the tide of Islamic extremism.

Both sides deny a deal has been reached, but whatever minor points remain will be resolved. They need each other. The extremists know the importance, too – at least five groups have threatened a suicide attack on Bhutto and the government deployed over 20,000 security forces to protect her return.

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