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Analysis: Will Bhutto make a difference?

  • Story Highlights
  • Bhutto's return touted by her party as a promise of democracy
  • Critics say she has yet to leave her corruption-dogged past behind
  • Many feel the former prime minister's return will create instability
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By Zein Basravi for CNN
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan after eight years in self-imposed exile is being touted by her party as a promise of democracy and a better future for Pakistan. But not everyone is excited about her return.

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Former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto cries upon landing at Karachi International Airport Thursday.

While a media parade and a massive crowd of supporters met her at the airport, Bhutto was also met with skepticism from a weary public, tired of party politics and the looming threat of instability.

"First of all, I think this is all crap about her supporting democracy, this is all a lie," said S. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based independent economist and social scientist. "I don't think she has any democratic sentiment in her at all."

In a telephone interview, Zaidi told CNN that by negotiating a deal with the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Bhutto has compromised hopes for a legitimate democracy in Pakistan.

"I think what she has done is that she has pounded death's nail into Pakistan," Zaidi said.

Karachi residents and members of the media said the show of public support for Bhutto had more to do with the fact that Pakistani's love a good party and shouldn't necessarily be seen as an indicator of Bhutto's popularity. One city resident said that the only good thing about her return was an extra day off work since businesses around the city were closed amid security concerns.

But now that she is back, can Bhutto deliver on her promises of democracy and make credible changes in Pakistan?

For many people, her return is of little consequence.

"They're all thieves, so it doesn't matter who comes into power, because whoever comes to power, they will be thieves. They're all thieves," said one Karachi resident.

The working class public, who represent a large population of the political moderates who Bhutto is attempting to reach out to, are tired of instability that has historically been an inextricable part of the political process in Pakistan.

Members of the public make it clear that people just want to work and live safe lives. One man said that, political or military, the best kind of government for the economy and the people is a stable one.

While the Karachi stock exchange experienced a new high on Bhutto's return, her political record has some business people worried.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one Pakistani businessman based in the United Arab Emirates said that investors, as well as Pakistanis living outside the country, are uncertain Bhutto's return will be good for business. He said the crowds receiving her were probably unaware of her scandal-ridden political record and were likely rallied or bribed to show their support -- a common practice in Pakistan.

Moving forward, he added, it is important to put showboating aside and consider how Bhutto might bring about long-term economic stability in the country. He said it is important the corruption investigation against Bhutto take its due course and that measures be put in place for the government to gauge her performance in whatever role she takes up.

Corruption is a fundamental problem in Pakistan and has become a part of how everything in the country works. Getting anything done requires knowing people in the right places and corruptive practices at every level of government continue to drain the country's resources and the public's confidence in political figures.

Zaidi said the only reason Bhutto has decided to cooperate with Musharraf is to salvage an undisclosed amount of her personal assets still in Pakistan. He added that following a brief honeymoon, Musharraf and Bhutto will probably have a political falling out.

A great deal of development in Pakistan's recent history has been a result of foreign aid -- mainly from the United States and the U.K. as opposed to domestic growth, making it difficult to predict the country's economic future. Zaidi said that so long as the foreign aid continues, Pakistan can expect to go on as usual.

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"The last eight years have been good for business and good for Pakistan," he said. "But if you compare it to the previous years ... I would say it's important to look behind those numbers. The post 9/11 scenario has been significant. The amount of money, the aid that has come into Pakistan, all that. But I agree, the eight years of uninterrupted power has been beneficial."

Barring radical change, Zaidi said, the economy will remain steady. While Bhutto's poorer constituents might be able to expect some benefits from having her in power, it did not happen in the past and there is nothing to indicate things will be different this time, he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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