Bhutto and Mr. 40 Percent Rebuffed

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: While hundreds of riot police stood guard outside the courthouse, Pakistan's Supreme Court rejected an appeal by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to restore her to power without an election. The decision closes a two-month struggle that erupted after President Farooq Leghari dismissed Bhutto amid allegations of corruption and economic mismanagement and then jailed her husband, former Investment Minister Asif Ali Zardari, for accepting massive kickbacks and abusing his position in government. Zardari had earned the nickname "Mr. 40 Percent," the sum he reportedly demanded of potential business contacts, after being acquitted of the same charge several times in the past. Bhutto had been battling desperately to retain her office by threatening to block the general elections, scheduled for February 3. The justices ruled 6-1 against Bhutto after hearing convincing evidence of the former prime minister's corruption, phone-tapping, and a series of extrajudicial killings. Bhutto had also been accused of backing police hit squads in attacks against the Mohajir Qami Movement, an Indian Muslim opposition group, in the southern port city of Karachi. Bhutto, whose political career was born out of violence when she inherited the leadership of her father's populist party after he was deposed and later executed by General Mohammed Zia-ul Haq in 1977, first won the prime minister's office in 1988. She was dismissed after only 20 months amid allegations of corruption and incompetence. The term that ended ignominiously in November began with her first re-election in 1993. Bhutto's removal was the fourth government dismissal in the past eight years, following 1988's first free election in the aftermath of Haq's military regime.