WASHINGTON, Aug 17: The United States made it known on Sunday that it was not considering any proposal to grant political asylum to President Pervez Musharraf.
The announcement came from a person no less than the secretary of state who has the final say in such matters.
“That’s not an issue on the table,” said Condoleezza Rice when asked if the Bush administration was considering any proposal to grant political asylum to the embattled Pakistani leader.
“And I just want to keep our focus on what we must do with the democratic government of Pakistan,” she told Fox News on Sunday.
Asked if it would be in the best interest of Pakistan to have Gen (retd) Musharraf resign, Ms Rice said: “This is a matter for the Pakistanis to resolve.”
Her statement makes it obvious that the United States is no longer interested in a person who only recently was called an “indispensable ally” in the war on terror. The question of seeking a ‘safe haven’ for Mr Musharraf was raised by the US media after they concluded, almost unanimously, that his days were numbered and that his departure was only a matter of days, not weeks.
While discussing Mr Musharraf’s future, a leading American scholar of South Asian affairs noted that the Pakistani leader had “one redeeming feature.”
Unlike previous US-backed strongmen, such as Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines or the Shah of Iran, he was not a rich man, said Michael Krepon, a founding president of Washington’s Stimson Institute.
“Musharraf doesn’t have an estate in Hawaii or a mansion in Los Angeles. This complicates any potential exile,” he added. But even this “redeeming feature” does not endear Mr Musharraf to Washington where he is no longer seen as an “indispensable ally”, as Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte called him on Nov 7.
He is now seen as a “serious liability,” as a Western think-tank --- International Crisis Group --- pointed out recently.
In other words, thanks a lot, and good-bye. Message: stay out of the Bushes. When they're done with you, they're done with you.
Meanwhile, the Guardian runs down the key players in Musharraf's downfall.
And inquiring minds want to know: if Pakistani's sometime democracy can manage to reassert constitutional norms by impeaching its overreaching president, why can't WE?
The US and Britain are pressing Pervez Musharraf’s victorious opponents to drop their demands that he resign as president and that the country’s independent judiciary be restored before forming a government.
In a strategy some Western diplomats admit could badly backfire, the Bush administration has made clear it wishes to continue to support Mr Musharraf even after Monday’s election in which the Pakistani public delivered a resounding rejection of his policies. “[The US] does not want some people pushed out because it would lead to instability. In this case that means Musharraf,” said one Western diplomat.
Officials say the policy is driven by concern about possible instability in the aftermath of the election in which the president’s parliamentary allies were soundly beaten. In such circumstances US and its Western allies are urging the election’s winners - the late Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N)- to quickly move forward and form a coalition that includes all “moderate” elements.
But along with Mr Musharraf’s future, the reinstatement of sacked Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry and other Supreme Court justices - sacked by the president when they refused to ratify his imposition of a State of Emergency last November - has rapidly emerged as the most contentious issues in the aftermath of Monday’s vote, as the PPP and PML-N negotiate to form a coalition government. Mr Sharif, whose party secured the second most number of seats, built his campaign around the reinstatement of Mr Chaudhry and has repeatedly insisted Mr Musharraf should stand down.
Last night an aide to Mr Sharif, who is due to meet today (THURS) with PPP leader, Asif Ali Zardari, confirmed there had been pressure to drop its demand for Mr Chaudhry’s return. “The suggestion has been there from Western countries for some time. In fact it was raised by [a senior British official] when he met Mr Sharif in London. [But] we are not willing to compromise on our stance. We feel it would be against the interest of the Pakistani people.”
This week senior US officials have already met with Mr Sharif and the other leading players in Pakistan’s unfolding political drama, urging an inclusive transition towards democracy. Yesterday morning, a US diplomat based in Lahore spent two hours with Aitzaz Ahsan, leader of the lawyers movement, laying out the US position.
Mr Ahsan, who has been under house arrest for three months, declined to detail the contents of his conversation with the diplomat, but he said: “There is no way other than to reinstate the judges…We are not going to let this pass. We will not let it be accepted as a norm.”
Since the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration has pursued a controversial policy in which it has given billions of dollars and considerable political support to Mr Musharraf, who is considered a vital ally in the so-called war on terror. The policy has been pursued despite criticism of Mr Musharraf’s human rights record and amid claims of hypocrisy over the US’s backing for a military dictator who seized power in a military coup while purportedly promoting democracy.
Officials admit that in the aftermath of such a decisive election its decision to stick by Mr Musharraf and its urging of his opponents to work with him - even with him serving in a reduced role - could be seen as interference and carried with it high risks.
Yet they say the threat of instability and the over-present threat of violence in Pakistan requires the various groups to form a coalition of moderate parties rather than becoming “fixated” on Mr Musharraf’s immediate future or the restoration of the judiciary. Another Western diplomat said: “The important thing is that a stable government can be formed.”
Pervez Musharraf hears the voice of the Pakistani people ... and the voice is not friendly:
With counting from Monday's election nearly complete, the two main opposition parties won a total of 154 of the 268 contested seats, according to the Election Commission.
The pro-Musharraf party trailed with 39 seats, and the group's leader acknowledged the loss.
"We accept the election results, and will sit on opposition benches," Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, told AP Television News. "We are accepting the results with grace and open heart."
"All the King's men, gone!" proclaimed the headline in the Daily Times as jubilant voters danced in the streets, sang and fired celebratory bursts of gunfire into the air.
"It turned out to be a referendum on Musharraf," said analyst Irfan Husain. "I don't give him more than a few months, unless there is pressure from the US."
The main winner was the Pakistan People's party (PPP) of murdered opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, which polled the most seats. But the surprise performance came from Sharif, a former prime minister, whose party finished a close second.
Neither party has an outright majority. Bhutto's husband, Asif Zardari, and Sharif arrived in Islamabad for power-sharing talks last night. The horse-trading was widely welcomed as dire predictions of vote rigging and violence failed to materialise. Although there were localised complaints of irregularities they were not enough to halt the opposition surge.
Sharif, ousted by Musharraf in a 1999 coup, ran a campaign dominated by one unflinching demand: the removal of "dictator" Musharraf. Now he has his chance.
Ecstatic loyalists chanted "The lion is coming again!" outside Sharif's Lahore home, where the bullish opposition leader recalled an old Musharraf promise. "He would say 'when people want, I will go'. Now the people have given their verdict," he said, vowing to work out a plan to "say goodbye to dictatorship forever".
In a striking sign of the retired general's faltering authority, lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who has been under house arrest for over three months, welcomed the media to his home. Ahsan said his phone was re-connected as the results streamed in on Monday. Yesterday, jail officials assigned to guard him failed to show up for work.
Change: it isn't just for American elections anymore. What will Dubya do now that his man is in trouble ...?
Benazir Bhutto emerges from the sunroof of her SUV just
seconds before she is shot and killed by an unknown assassin.
TIME reports that key forensic evidence was literally "washed away" before an investigation into Benazir Bhutto's assassination could begin.
Within hours of the attack in the garrison town of Rawalpindi some 10 miles from the capital, authorities had already hosed down the streets. Pools of blood, along with possible evidence such as bullet casings, DNA samples from the bomber and tracks had been washed away. Retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, the former director general of Pakistani Intelligence, said he was shocked to see people cleaning up the debris so soon after the assassination. "It's a crime scene, and they're washing away all the evidence! We need to be asking why the hell was this thing done." One of the few pieces of evidence from the crime scene that remains is amateur footage showing a clean-cut man in a black vest brandishing what appears to be a gun. Behind him stands another man, a white scarf wrapped around his head. It is thought that he might have been the suicide bomber.
The situation had already been muddied by contradictory versions of how Bhutto died. Initial health official reports stated that Bhutto had been shot twice before a suicide bomber detonated himself seconds later. But by Saturday, the government reversed track. Bhutto had been shot at, said Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema, but the shooter missed. The force of the explosion knocked Bhutto, who had been waving at the crowds from her vehicle's sunroof, backwards. She hit her head on a protruding lever, and succumbed to the fractures to her skull. Cheema presented X rays to support his claim, but witnesses and close friends who rushed Bhutto to the hospital say that there was no doubt she had been shot.
Doctors who had attended Bhutto immediately after the attack initially said that she died of gunshot wounds, but over the weekend they released new findings in line with the Interior Ministry's claim that the official cause of death was head wounds sustained when Bhutto fell. The reversal has many people suspecting government interference. Says Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, an opposition member of the National Assembly and a former petroleum minister: "The government says it was the work of terrorists and they say someone has claimed responsibility. What I don't understand is why they keep changing the story of how Bhutto died? Why do that? These summersaults make everything look suspicious."
This as stills from the amateur videos of the shooting are making their way around the internet, including the one below, which appears to show the gunman, in dark glasses, and the bomber, in what may be a white burial shroud or scarf.
Photo 2, from the TIME story:
The TIME story raises the H-word: "Hariri"...
Bhutto's supporters have demanded an international, independent investigation into the events leading to her death. California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said that Washington needed to answer some "troubling questions" about Pakistan's investigation so far. At yesterday's press conference, Bhutto's husband Zadari demanded a United Nations investigation, saying "We want a [assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik] Hariri commission-style investigation... we are writing to the United Nations for an international probe into her martyrdom." According to Dawn, a local newspaper Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said that he would "consider" outside help during a phone call with British PM Gordon Brown yesterday, which many are interpreting as a "thanks, but no thanks" dismissal.
Meanwhile, the Pakistiani dictator, Musharraf, is set to address his nation tomorrow, and the Times of London reports that elections could be delayed until March, something that won't please the U.S.
ISLAMABAD (CNN) -- Elections in Pakistan have been postponed for at least four weeks, sources at the country's Election Commission told CNN Tuesday.
The elections had been scheduled for January 8. They have been postponed until sometime in February in the wake of political unrest following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the sources said.
The Central Election Commission of Pakistan had said a decision on whether to delay parliamentary elections would be made on Wednesday following consultation with political parties.
At a press conference Tuesday morning, commission Secretary General Kanwar Dilshad said various provincial government representatives had suggested that the elections be held after the Muslim month of Muharram, which follows a lunar calendar and this year begins on or about January 9 and continues until February 6.
The commission said it would looking at reports from provincial governments across Pakistan about the law and order situation in making its decision, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
Election offices in 13 districts of Sindh province have been destroyed, Dilshad said. Sindh is Bhutto's home province and was the main base of her support.
"The elections aren't postponed," Dilshad said on Tuesday, but also didn't rule out a delay.
"We will tell them (the political parties) about the 13 offices that burned down. We will tell them about the ground realities. And then after the discussions, we will announce," he said.
The meetings with the various political parties are expected to be completed by Tuesday evening, and an announcement made about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday (6:30 a.m. Wednesday GMT).
Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zargari, prepares to take over his mother's political party, and he and his father call for the January 8 elections to go forward. Reports the Guardian of London:
Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son Bilawal was catapulted into the maelstrom of Pakistani politics yesterday, appointed leader of her party just three days after the assassination that plunged the country into chaos. It is arguably the most perilous job in Pakistani politics. Bilawal's grandfather died at the gallows, his mother following last week's bomb and bullet attack. But his leadership will be initially symbolic because the party will be stewarded by his father, Asif Zardari, until his studies at Oxford are over.
"When I am at university my father will take care of the party," said Bilawal at his maiden press conference at the family estate in Naudero. "The party's long struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigour," he said. "My mother always said, democracy is the best revenge."
It was a remarkable day for Bilawal, described by relatives as a polite, somewhat bookish young man who just one week ago was a university student on Christmas break at the family home in Dubai.
Now, barely coming to terms with the assassination of his mother, he has become the titular head of Pakistan's greatest political dynasty as the country staggers towards turbulent elections.
If Benazir now passes into legend as Pakistan's Diana or JFK, Bilawal now carries the burden as one part Wils, one part John-John. Nothing to envy, that...
Channel 4 in Briton has what is probably the last big scoop of 2007 -- video which appears to show both the gunman and the suicide bomber who teamed to assassinate Benazir Bhutto.
The video clearly contradicts the Musharraf government's official version of events -- they claim Bhutto died from a wound she suffered when she struck her head on the sunroof of her vehicle, while ducking from the bomb blast. The video clearly shows her falling before the bomb went off -- and you can hear the two shots which precede the bomb blast.
The story and a link to the full Channel 4 story can be found here.
With the new evidence hitting the web, even the Bushbots are raising doubts about the Musharraf government's version of events. Though some of his readers remain unconvinced, neocon/Bush devotee Powerline admits:
... the apparent conflict between the government's account and the video and other evidence will no doubt fuel claims of a conspiracy. Benazir Bhutto appears to be destined to go down in Pakistani history as a combination of Princess Diana and John Kennedy.
The problem for the Pakistani government is that it cannot account for the surgeon who treated Bhutto for multiple gunshot wounds to the head and neck. Moreover, the video shows that Mrs. Bhutto clearly fell into the car before the bomb blast, and as Channel 4's reporter points out, the car was bomb-proof, and once inside, she would have been safe (no one else inside the vehicle was hurt.) Third, there was not blood found on the sunroof handle, which the government claims she hit her head on, causing the fatal wound. That's a big problem for the Bush-bots.
Captain's Quarters' Ed Morrissey is also among the realists:
This puts to lie any notion that Bhutto did not die from the gunshots that can clearly be heard in this and other videos, just before the explosion. Her head jerks to the right as the hair and scarf rise, and then she falls into the car going sideways. After she falls completely back into the vehicle, the bomb explodes.
Musharraf has a huge credibility problem, and this video makes it crystal clear. Until now, Musharraf has resisted calls for an international investigation into the assassination. Today, CNN reports that the Pakistani government could reconsider that decision. If they do, the family of Bhutto could then agree to an exhumation and an autopsy by an independent coroner which will confirm the cause of death.
That will open up a lot of questions about the official government story and what prompted it. With so many eyewitnesses to the murder, why float such a ridiculous theory about a sunroof handle? What were they trying to cover up? The video also shows the vehicle surrounded by people; where was a security cordon? How could the police, seen standing around the vehicle, allow a gunman to get within a few feet of Bhutto?
At the least, the video of Bhutto's assassination shows that the Pakistani government and military services failed to protect that country's most popular politician -- the gunman literally gets within a couple feet of the car, as does the bomber. There was no security cordon around the car. Here's the Youtube version:
CNN released a letter this past week sent to on-air neocon ... I mean reporter ... Wolf Blitzer by slain Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. According to reports:
Blitzer received the e-mail on Oct. 26 from Mark Siegel, a friend and longtime Washington spokesman for Bhutto. That was eight days after she narrowly escaped another attempt at her life.
Bhutto wrote to Blitzer that "I have been made to feel insecure by his (Musharraf's) minions," that specific improvements had not been made to her security arrangements, and that the Pakistani leader was responsible.
Blitzer agreed to the conditions before receiving the e-mail. He said Friday that he called Siegel shortly after seeing it to see if there was any way he could use it on CNN, but was told firmly it could only be used if she were killed. Siegel couldn't say why she had insisted on those conditions.
...Blitzer was the only journalist sent such a message, Siegel said. He also sent the e-mail to U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat.
Siegel said he did not believe Bhutto's opinions had changed since she wrote the e-mail. Her message specifically mentioned she had requested four police vehicles surrounding her vehicle when traveling; Siegel said it seemed evident from pictures taken at the assassination scene that the request was not fulfilled.
Bhutto did not necessarily believe that Musharraf wanted her dead, but felt many people around him did, he said.
Her husband contacted Siegel on Thursday to remind him about the e-mail message and to make sure it got out, he said.
Says Blitzer of the email:
Blitzer said he had no regrets about the way he handled the story. To report about it while she was still alive would have meant going back on his word, he said.
"I don't think there is a clear black-and-white in this situation," he said. "I did what I think was right."
Bhutto also sent an email to the British foreign secretary, this time naming three prominent Pakistanis whom she suspected of wanting her killed, including a key intelligence official, according to the London Daily Mail (which declined to print the names):
Benazir Bhutto claimed three senior allies of Pakistan's president General Musharraf were out to kill her in a secret email to Foreign Secretary David Miliband written weeks before her death. Astonishingly, one of them is a leading intelligence officer who was officially responsible for protecting Miss Bhutto from an assassination.
The second is a prominent Pakistani figure, one of whose family members was allegedly murdered by a militant group run by Miss Bhutto's brother. The third is a well-known chief minister in Pakistan who is a long-standing opponent of Miss Bhutto.
Miss Bhutto told Mr Miliband she was convinced that the three were determined to assassinate her on her return to the country and pleaded with him to put pressure on the Pakistan government to stop them.
...One is a senior intelligence officer and retired army officer who worked for Pakistan's sinister Inter Services Intelligence spy agency, which has close links to the Taliban and has been involved in drug smuggling and political assassinations. He allegedly directed two Islamic terrorist groups and reportedly once boasted that he could pay money to hired killers to assassinate anyone who posed a threat to Musharraf's regime.
He was given another senior intelligence post by Musharraf after his bid to become a senior overseas diplomat for Pakistan failed when the host country refused to let him in because of his past activities.
He was also linked to Omar Sheikh, the former British public schoolboy convicted of kidnapping US journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in 2002 by having his throat cut and being decapitated by Islamic terrorists.
The second individual named by Miss Bhutto is well known in Pakistani political circles and has been involved in a vicious family feud with her for decades.
One of his relatives was said to have been murdered by the militant Al Zulfiqar group run by Miss Bhutto's brother, Murtaza. The organisation was set up to avenge the execution of Miss Bhutto's father Zulfiqar Bhutto by ex-Pakistan dictator Zia ul Haq.
The third individual is a chief minister who has repeatedly denounced Miss Bhutto - and faced political annihilation if she won the elections scheduled for next week. He made an outspoken attack on her only hours before her death.
A senior source said: "She knew the risk she was taking when she decided to go back but also took the precaution of informing the British Government of the names of those she thought presented the biggest danger to her. ...
Pakistan's response to the world's offers of assistance in the wake of the Bhutto assassination looks curiously like Syria's response post-Hariri... from the AP:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan rejected foreign help in investigating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Saturday, despite controversy over the circumstances of her death and three days of paralyzing turmoil.
The Islamic militant group blamed by officials for the attack that killed Bhutto denied any links to the killing on Saturday, and Bhutto's aides accused the government of a cover-up.
President Pervez Musharraf ordered his security chiefs to quell rioting by Bhutto's grieving followers that has killed at least 44 people over three days and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.
"Criminals should stop their despicable activities, otherwise they will have to face serious consequences," Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said.
Questions about Bhutto's assassination have intensified since she died Thursday evening when a suicide attacker shot at her and then blew himself up as she waved to supporters from the sunroof of her armored vehicle outside a campaign rally.
The disputes were sure to further enflame the violence and have led to calls for an international, independent investigation into the attack.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that an international probe was vital because there was "no reason to trust the Pakistani government," while others called for a U.N. investigation.
Cheema dismissed the suggestion.
"This is not an ordinary criminal matter in which we require assistance of the international community. I think we are capable of handling it," he said. An independent judicial investigation should be completed within seven days of the appointment of its presiding judge, he said.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Pakistan had not asked the United States for help.
"It's a responsibility of the government of Pakistan to ensure that the investigation is thorough. If Pakistani authorities ask for assistance we would review the request," he said.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband offered his country's assistance. "Obviously it's very important that a full investigation does take place, and has the confidence of all concerned," he said.
The government blamed the attack on Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban, a newly formed coalition of Islamic militants along the Afghan border believed to be linked to al-Qaida and committed to waging holy war against the government.
But a spokesman for Mehsud, Maulana Mohammed Umer, dismissed the allegations as "government propaganda."
"We strongly deny it. Baitullah Mehsud is not involved in the killing of Benazir Bhutto," he said in a telephone call he made to The Associated Press from the tribal region of South Waziristan. "The fact is that we are only against America, and we don't consider political leaders of Pakistan our enemy."
Bhutto's aides said they, too, doubted Mehsud was involved and accused the government of a cover-up.
And the story's even got an "official version of events" -- and another version:
"The story that al-Qaida or Baitullah Mehsud did it appears to us to be a planted story, an incorrect story, because they want to divert the attention," said Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Bhutto's party.
After an October suicide attack targeted her in the city of Karachi, Bhutto accused elements in the ruling party of plotting to kill her. The government denied the claims, and Babar said Bhutto's allegations were never investigated.
Authorities initially said Bhutto died from bullet wounds. A surgeon who treated her later said the impact from shrapnel on her skull killed her.
But Cheema said Friday that Bhutto was killed when the shockwaves from the bomb smashed her head into the sunroof as she tried to duck back inside the vehicle.
Bhutto's spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who was in the vehicle that rushed her boss to the hospital, disputed that.
"She was bleeding profusely, as she had received a bullet wound in her neck. My car was full of blood. Three doctors at the hospital told us that she had received bullet wounds. I was among the people who gave her a final bath. We saw a bullet wound in the back of her neck," she said. "What the government is saying is actually dangerous and nonsensical. They are pouring salt on our wounds. There are no findings, they are just lying."
Cheema stood by the government's version of events, and said Bhutto's party was free to exhume her body for an autopsy.
The man being blamed, Baitullah Mehsud, is profiled by the BBC here.
And the controversy over just what killed Mrs. Bhutto lingers in smoldering Pakistan.
Benazir Bhutto suspected that people inside Pakistan's intelligence services wanted her dead, and she said as much in a letter to Pervez Musharraf shortly before her return to that country in October -- a letter which made clear that she also had suspicions about the man she was mainly campaigning against -- Pervez Musharraf himself:
[From the International Herald Tribune] The assassination is likely to bring renewed attention to Pakistan's security agencies. Bhutto had long accused the main military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, of working against her and her party because they opposed her liberal, secular agenda.
In a letter she sent to Musharraf just before her return to Pakistan in October, she listed "three individuals and more" who she said should be investigated for their sympathies with militants in the event that she was assassinated.
An aide close to Bhutto said that one of those named in the letter was Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another of the country's intelligence agencies and a close Musharraf associate.
The second official was the head of the country's National Accountability Bureau, which had investigated Bhutto on corruption charges. The third was a former official in Punjab Province who had mistreated her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, when he was in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges.
Bhutto never publicly confirmed the three names in the letter, and it was unclear how many names it actually included.
She complained that the government was not thorough in its investigation into a deadly suicide attack in the southern city of Karachi on the day she returned from years of self-imposed exile abroad to contest the parliamentary elections. Since then, she had continued to accuse the government of doing too little to protect her while campaigning for nationwide elections.
Bhutto was a sharp critic of the emerging military dictatorship in her country, and she was brave enough to criticize it outright, as she did in this commentary to CNN, in which she also describes the curious circumstances of the prior attempt on her life:
... The ruling party is an artificial, political party created in the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA) during the General Elections of 2002. Its core support comes from the political partners of the military dictator of the '80s, General Zia al-Haq, who empowered the most radical elements within the Afghan Mujahedeen who went on to morph into al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Pakistani militants of today.
This party has called for a banning of outdoor rallies, demonstrations and caravans. They would thus suspend all activity that demonstrates to the people of Pakistan and to the people of the world which parties enjoy mass support amongst the people.
On my return to Pakistan last month, throngs of people turned out to welcome me back home. The demand to ban grassroots political activity is a suspicious prelude to what could be an overt attempt to rig the upcoming elections. All people who believe in the process of democracy should reject this attempt to undermine public participation in the campaign and set the table for what I believe would simply be a fraudulent election. Watch as Bhutto expresses fears for the future of her country »
It has now been more than two weeks since the horrific assassination attempt against me and the police have still not filed my complaint. They filed their own report without taking statements from eyewitnesses on the truck targeted for the terrorist attack which resulted in the death of more than 158 of my supporters and security guards.
Soon thereafter, I was asked by authorities not to travel in cars with tinted windows -- which protected me from identification by terrorists -- or travel with privately armed guards.
I began to feel the net was being tightened around me when police security outside my home in Karachi was reduced, even as I was told that other assassination plots were in the offing.
While the authorities speculated on whether a suicide bomber had been involved or two suicide bombers or perhaps a hand grenade or perhaps a car bomb, I reflected on my plight.
I decided not to be holed up in my home, a virtual prisoner. I went to my ancestral village of Larkana to pray at my father's grave. Everywhere, the people rallied around me in a frenzy of joy. I feel humbled by their love and trust.
Although it remains difficult to know for certain, I doubt that a suicide bomber was involved in the attack on me. I suspect, after talking to some of the injured, that the terrorists used a small child as a ploy to get to me. They were trying to hoist the child -- dressed in the colors of my party's flag -- onto my truck.
Failing to do so, they dropped the child near my vehicle. Some witnesses said the child had been rigged as a human bomb. I can't be sure. What followed was a massive explosion, killing scores immediately, tearing many bodies in half and sending blood, gore and flames up into the vehicle.
In less than a minute a second bomb -- reports later suggested a car bomb -- went off.
As I have reflected on the past two weeks, there are some things I wonder about:
• What was the car doing there?
• Why had the street lights been turned off?
• Was that intended to prevent my security from clearly seeing any approaching dangers?
• Is there any truth to the report that a high government official ordered the lights turned off "to prevent her getting so much television coverage"?
• Why would the leadership of the ruling party of Pakistan make a claim that my own party had committed the attack to gain sympathy?
• Why would the investigation be initially given to a police officer who was present when my husband was nearly tortured to death in 1999?
Bhutto did add the following to her commentary:
We can only wonder -- if there is nothing to hide -- why international investigators from the FBI and Scotland Yard are being prevented from assisting a Pakistan-led investigation?
The sham investigation of the October 19 massacre and the attempt by the ruling party to politically capitalize on this catastrophe are discomforting, but do not suggest any direct involvement by General Pervez Musharraf.
But NBC is reporting that she also wrote a letter to rival CNN, to be opened only in the event of her death, in which she suggested that if she were to be assassinated, the culprits should be sought within the government or intelligence services under Pervez Musharraf.
As for the fallout on this side of the world, NBC, TIME Magazine and others report that the assassination bodes bad things for the Bushies, who have already wasted $10 billion on Pakistan's "democracy" and the so-called "war on terror," to absolutely no avail.
From TIME's analysis:
... there are some who think the Bush Administration is not without blame. Hussain Haqqani, a former top aide to Bhutto and now a professor at Boston University, thinks the U.S., which has counted Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as a key ally against terrorism since 9/11, bears some of the responsibility. "Washington will have to answer a lot of questions, especially the Administration," he says. "People like me have been making specific requests to American officials to intervene and ask for particular security arrangements be made for her, and they have been constantly just trusting the Musharraf Administration." U.S. officials said they were leery of intervening in another nation's internal affairs, and didn't want to give Bhutto Washington's imprimatur.
Haqqani is not shy about pointing fingers. He blames Musharraf himself, above all, for Bhutto's death. "It's quite clear that Musharraf does not want an election — you can quote me — he is the one who has constantly wanted anybody who can threaten him or his power, out." Haqqani told Congress in October that U.S. aid for Pakistan has for too long been tilted toward the Pakistani military. "Since 1954 almost $21 billion had been given to Pakistan in aid," he told the House Armed Services Committee. "Of this, $17.7 billion were given under military rule, and only $3.4 billion was given to Pakistan and the civilian government."
It is Musharraf's iron grip on power that has made Washington's own policy toward Pakistan such a target of criticism. While Washington has publicly extolled the virtues of democracy and hoped that Bhutto's return to Pakistan in October would usher in a power-sharing deal with Musharraf, it was also clearly nervous about the instability if the country's strong man were to lose power entirely. Pakistan — the world's second-most-populous Muslim nation, with elements of al-Qaeda and the Taliban controlling lawless mountainous pockets in the northwest — is also the only Islamic state with a nuclear arsenal. And though Washington publicly says Pakistan's nuclear weapons are safe, there are always private concerns about their security, concerns that will only heighten in the wake of Bhutto's assassination.
The U.S. has few options in Pakistan. One thing is clear, says Peter Galbraith, senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: It is "not a good idea to have 70 nuclear weapons in the hands of a country that is falling apart." Some observers believe that U.S. policy in Pakistan has favored personalities over principles. "We have a bad habit of always personalizing our foreign policy," says P.J. Crowley, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. "We've done it with Musharraf, and we did it with respect to Bhutto. We are very good at providing technical support to the Pakistani army. We are not good at building indigenous or effective local political processes or strong institutions of government." Given the realities on the ground, the U.S. is likely to continue to throw its support behind Musharraf. "In terms of political leadership, Pakistan does not have a deep bench," says Crowley. ...
Pervez Musharraf finally steps down as head of Pakistan's Army. Stepping down as dictator? Don't hold your breath...
No, seriously, now that he has been safely installed as civilian president, thanks to a little maneuver called "suspend the constitution," Our Man Pervez now says OK to lifting the state of emergency. After all, the emergency -- the Supreme Court attempting to prevent him from taking office as president -- has officially passed.
Part of the flawed rationale for supporting George W. Bush, for those who did in 2000 and 2004, was that he "knows who he is," is "comfortable in his own skin," and that he makes up for his lack of international experience and book knowledge with good old fashioned cowboy sense.
Well, call it the "brokeback presidency." Instead of using common sense. Dubya falls in love with some of the world's most undemocratic leaders, and like many people who make bad relationship choices, he misjudged his paramours ... repeatedly.
He holds hands with the Saudis. ... the Saudis who send allllll that money to al-Qaida ... and to George W. Bush ... ok, he's getting something out of that relationship...
Then there's Vladimir Putin -- Bush looked into his eyes and saw a strong friend and democratic leader, rather than a guy who's even more blatant than Bush himself at crushing dissent and scuttling democracy. This despite having a Russia expert on the payroll.
Bush has backed a series of failed leaders in Iraq (after completely blowing the analysis of Saddam Hussein, the supposed scariest man on earth before we found out he was more honest than Dubya about WMD...) He listened to Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and backed lying, thieving Ahmad Chalabi. Then he had his viceroy place former CIA asset Ayad Allawi in the prime minister's chair. And he has repeatedly praised incompetent Shiite militia ... I mean government ... leader, P.M. Nouri al-Maliki, despite the latter's many failings.
So it's little wonder that Bush also got it wrong ... very, dangerously wrong ... when it came to General Pervez Musharraf -- a man Bush couldn't even name before he took office. The New York Times has more:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — In the six years since Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, joined President Bush in the fight against Al Qaeda, it has been an unlikely partnership: a president intent on promoting democracy and a military commander who seized power in a bloodless coup.
Mr. Bush has repeatedly called Gen. Musharraf “a friend.” In 2003, the president invited the general to Camp David, a presidential perk reserved for the closest of allies. Last year, at the general’s insistence, Mr. Bush risked a trip to Pakistan, jangling the nerves of the Secret Service by spending the night in the country presumed to be home to Osama bin Laden.
But now that the general has defied the White House, suspending Pakistan’s Constitution and imposing martial law, old tensions are flaring anew. Mr. Bush is backing away from the leader he once called a man of “courage and vision,” and critics are asking whether the president misread his Pakistani counterpart.
They said Mr. Bush — an ardent believer in personal diplomacy, who once remarked that he had looked into the eyes of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and had gotten “a sense of his soul” — was taken in by the general, with his fluent English and his promises to hold elections and relinquish military power. They said Mr. Bush looked at General Musharraf and saw a democratic reformer when he should have seen a dictator instead.
“He didn’t ask the hard questions, and frankly, neither did the people working for him,” said Husain Haqqani, an expert on Pakistan at Boston University who has advised two previous Pakistani prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. “They bought the P.R. image of Musharraf as the reasonable general. Bush bought the line — hook, line and sinker.” ...
Experts in United States-Pakistan relations said General Musharraf has played the union masterfully, by convincing Mr. Bush that he alone can keep Pakistan stable. Kamran Bokhari, an analyst for Stratfor, a private intelligence company, who met with General Musharraf in January, said the general views Mr. Bush with some condescension.
“Musharraf thinks that Bush has certain weaknesses that can be manipulated,” Mr. Bokhari said, adding, “I would say that President Musharraf doesn’t think highly of President Bush, but his interests force him to do business with the U.S. president.”
In his autobiography, “In the Line of Fire,” General Musharraf writes glowingly of the trust Mr. Bush placed in him. But he passed up a chance to praise Mr. Bush on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” where he was promoting the book. Mr. Stewart asked who would win a hypothetical contest for mayor of Karachi, Mr. Bush or Mr. bin Laden.
“I think they’ll both lose miserably,” the general replied.
Mr. Bush, by contrast, was “favorably impressed” with General Musharraf, according to Ari Fleischer, the president’s former press secretary. Mr. Fleischer recounted one session where the general had been warned in advance not to ask the president for F-16 fighter jets, because the answer would be no.
“Musharraf brought it up anyway,” Mr. Fleischer said, “and Bush told him the answer is no. But I think Bush liked the fact that he does what he wants to do, and says what’s on his mind.”
GAZA,: Hamas police officers rounded up scores of supporters of the rival Fatah movement here Tuesday, a day after a mass rally in honor of Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader and founder of the Fatah, ended in violence.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, also threatened a political crackdown, saying in a statement that their leaders would "take measures" to ensure the "protection of internal security."
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Police and soldiers emboldened by state of emergency powers swept up hundreds of activists and opposition members Sunday, dragged away protesters shouting "Shame on you!", and turned government buildings into barbed-wire compounds.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government said parliamentary elections could be delayed up to a year as it tries to stamp out a growing Islamic militant threat – effectively linking two of the greatest concerns of Pakistan's biggest international donors: the United States and Britain.
What makes one an ally and the other an enemy? Hamas, though Sunni, aren't down with al-Qaida ... Musharraf's security forces are down with al-Qaida ... Hamas members were democratically elected ... Musharraf took power in a military coup and is refusing to stand down, even after being term limited out of office ... both are cracking down on opposition parties and leaders, and behaving most undemocratically. Oh, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons, is teeming with al-Qaida sympathisers, is an enemy of Israel, and is currently in an armistice with the Taliban.
Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf sits down with the New York Times and posits a novel excuse for suspending his country's constitution and firing the members of Pakistan's high court so they couldn't rule his continued rule illegal: he's doing it for the sake of democracy !!! (and because the terrorists hate our freedoms...) Grey Lady: hold forth!
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 13 — Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to lift his state of emergency, insisting in an interview that it was the best way to ensure free and fair elections.
He vigorously defended the emergency decree issued 10 days earlier that suspended the Constitution, dismissed the Supreme Court, silenced independent news stations and resulted in the arrests of at least 2,500 opposition party workers, lawyers and human rights advocates.
“I totally disagree with her,” General Musharraf said in an interview with The New York Times at the presidential building here in the capital. “The emergency is to ensure elections go in an undisturbed manner.” He said Sunday that elections would go ahead by Jan. 9.
In other words, he had to suspend the rule of law for the sake of democracy. Very Bushie...
Dressed in a dark business suit rather than his military uniform, General Musharraf spoke in a confident tone, saying the decree was justified because the Supreme Court had questioned the validity of his re-election, and because of the seriousness of threats from terrorists.
Very nice ... he's taking Dubya's fashion advice, AND ... he's fighting the "terr'rists...!"
He refused to say when he would step down as army leader and become a civilian president, a demand that President Bush has made publicly and, in a telephone call last week, privately. “It will happen soon,” he said.
Ok but the other Bush advice? ... not so much...
General Musharraf, who has been criticized as being increasingly isolated and receiving poor advice from a shrinking circle of aides, insisted he was in touch with the mood of Pakistanis.
Dismissing consistent reports that a vast majority of Pakistanis oppose his emergency decree, he said he had information from “several organizations” and feedback from politicians and friends that the move was popular.
“I know what they feel about the emergency when all these suicide bombings were taking place,” he said, speaking of the rising number of suicide bombings in Pakistan. “Their view is, Why have I done it so late.”
Oh my god this guy is as nutty as the wack-jobs at the Weekly Standard and the National Review! He probably thinks the Iraq war is going gangbusters, too!
He sharply criticized the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto...
Oh, here we go...
... saying she was confrontational and would be difficult to work with. Ms. Bhutto returned to Pakistan last month in a deal brokered by the Bush administration, which hoped that the two could find a way to share power, in order to increase public support for General Musharraf’s increasingly unpopular military government.
The understanding was that she would take part in elections that could make her prime minister, while he would run for re-election as president. Instead, they have engaged in increasingly public sparring, and Ms. Bhutto has come in for criticism that she is an American pawn who is not mounting serious opposition to the general.
Early Tuesday, 900 police officers surrounded the house where Ms. Bhutto was staying in the eastern city of Lahore, preventing her from leading a march to Islamabad to protest what opposition groups say is martial law. After waiting for more than a week, on Tuesday she joined other opposition leaders and called for General Musharraf to resign.
“You come here on supposedly on a reconciliatory mode, and right before you land, you’re on a confrontationist mode,” he said in the interview, conducted in English. “I am afraid this is producing negative vibes, negative optics.”
Damn you, Bhutto and your negative optics!!!
Oh, and the article goes on to point out that Pakistan has received more than $10 billion in mainly military aid from the Bush administration. The new, obedient Supreme Court in Pakistan is expected to ratify his illegal election soon, which Musharraf apparently can't say will end his "emergency rule" (funny that the emergency seems to be the fact that the court ruled against him...)
Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf took the bright, shiny wrapping off his dictatorship, placing former P.M. Benazir Bhutto under house arrest to stop her from leading a peaceful protest against his brazen junking of his country's constitution and supreme court (which had ruled his run for president, again, even though he's term limited... unconstitutional...) Bush's man in the Near East is still sending his police forces into the streets to squash anti-government protests. So what say you now, George "Mr. Democracy" Bush?
So far, Bush's response has been rather tepid. He firmly but politely asked the General to doff his military uniform and dress in civilian clothes. Dictatorships go over so much more nicely that way ... And he says he "hopes" that Musharraf will end his state of emergency and hold elections soon, "while remaining a staunch ally in the war on terrorism." Said the neocon's favorite goofy sock puppet to his fellow puppets at the Fox Business Network:
"He understands the stakes of the war, and I do believe he understands the importance of democracy,''
How adorable. What else is the Dubster up to?
He's sending John Negroponte to "talk" to the man he used to refer to solely as ... "General" (back when he was a candidate and couldn't remember Musharraf's name.) Hold on, he's sending John "Death Squad" Negroponte? Hm. Well luckily Pakistan already has a violent military prone to raising up illicit, violent terrorist armies and harming people who dissent from the government...
WASHINGTON: The US appears to be preparing for different eventualities as the political crisis in Pakistan deepens, according to a report in the New Times on Tuesday.
One US official told the newspaper, “Nobody is ready to cut him (President General Pervez Musharraf) off at the knees yet.” But another official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly on the issue, said that many people within the administration were worried that General Musharraf’s missteps would soon erode his base at home that he could be forced to give up power.” ...
The Times also picks up a report on the latest Benazir Bhutto goings on, courtesy of the Washington Post:
BB still ‘in’: The Washington Post, however, reports that while Bhutto has “warned that she would hold no talks with Musharraf as long as the Constitution was suspended, analysts say that, despite those remarks, Bhutto is still open to a power-sharing deal with Musharraf.” The Financial Times writes, “Western diplomats in Islamabad said the seemingly harder line taken by Bhutto was unlikely to mark a complete end to several months of behind-the-scenes discussions between negotiators representing her party and the Musharraf government.”
The Christian Science Monitor says in a report that “some US officials and South Asia experts are doing what they say the US has failed to do: envision and prepare for a post-Musharraf Pakistan.”