Returning from exile in Europe to a tumultuous welcome by hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis, anti-government leader Benazir Bhutto called Thursday for the immediate removal of President Zia ul-Haq and for “free and fair elections” for a new leader.
“Marcos is gone, the president of Haiti is gone, and now another dictator must go,” she told the crowd, referring to Ferdinand E. Marcos of the Philippines and Jean-Claude Duvalier, both of whom were driven out of their countries in February.
Bhutto, 33, is the daughter and political heiress of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was overthrown by Gen. Zia in 1977 and executed two years later. A graduate of Oxford and Harvard universities, she has spent most of the last eight years under house arrest, in jail or in exile. She was permitted to return under Zia’s program of restoring democracy. He lifted martial law last December.
Thursday’s massive gathering, in which Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and other opposition parties took part, was a demonstration of dissent unprecedented in the last eight years. It included a dramatic, nine-hour, 10-mile parade through the streets of Lahore.
Most of the crowd’s hostility was directed at Zia. Some people were heard to chant, “Marcos and Zia are brothers!” But there was considerable anti-American sentiment as well; the United States was portrayed as Zia’s patron.
Leaders of the Bhutto party blamed the display of anti-Americanism on leftist elements in the party, but one official party banner bore the words “Down With America,” and the chant “Reagan Is a Dog” was heard. Dozens of paper American flags were burned.
Bhutto spoke from a platform decorated with a painting of her father alongside Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, but she steered clear of any anti-American themes. She led the crowd in choruses of “Zia must go, Zia must go!”
‘Bad Year for Dictators’
She mocked Zia’s gradual return to popular rule, including non-party elections last spring, as a “half-hearted democracy.” And she repeated the theme that 1986 is a “bad year for dictators.”
“After seeing your determination and your numbers,” she shouted, “another dictator may have to flee in an airplane.”
When she stepped out of the airliner Thursday morning at the Lahore airport after a flight from London, she seemed pale and confused. But as the day progressed, she appeared to gain strength, and by the time she arrived at the speaker’s stand in Iqbal Park she was radiating confidence.
She spoke for an hour. Aides said that she wrote her speech on the flight from London. In it were quotations from well-known poems in the Urdu language, along with several attributed to her father.
Recalls Father’s Words
“Seeing you, the people, makes me feel that (he) is alive before my eyes,” she said. “He told me in our last meeting at Rawalpindi Jail that I must sacrifice everything for my country. This is my mission.”
It may be weeks before the full significance of the huge reception for Benazir Bhutto becomes clear. Her aides have scheduled daily speeches throughout the country. Western diplomatic observers predict that the enthusiasm will diminish after the novelty of the freedom to assemble wears off.
Thursday’s crowd was much larger than expected. Some estimates put the number who lined the parade route and crowded into the park at 2 million. Lahore’s population is 4 million. Pakistani journalists said the crowd was the largest since Aug. 15, 1947, the day Pakistan became independent from Britain.