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Profile: Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was a participant or observer in the following events:
William Casey. [Source: CIA]Following an agreement between the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI to make more use of Arabs in the Soviet-Afghan War, recruitment of potential fighters increases significantly. The agreement was a result of CIA dissatisfaction at infighting between indigenous Afghan rebels (see 1985-1986). According to Australian journalist John Pilger, in this year: “CIA Director William Casey [gives] his backing to a plan put forward by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. More than 100,000 Islamic militants [are] trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992, in camps overseen by the CIA and [the British intelligence agency] MI6, with the [British special forces unit] SAS training future al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other black arts. Their leaders [are] trained at a CIA camp in Virginia.” [Guardian, 9/20/2003] Eventually, around 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Islamic countries will fight with the Afghan mujaheddin. Tens of thousands more will study in the hundreds of new madrassas (Islamic schools) funded by the ISI and CIA in Pakistan. Their main logistical base is in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/2001] Ironically, although many are trained, it seems only a small percentage actually take part fight in serious fighting in Afghanistan, so their impact on the war is small. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian relations during the Reagan administration, will later say: “We did spawn a monster in Afghanistan. Once the Soviets were gone [the people trained and/or funded by the US] were looking around for other targets, and Osama bin Laden has settled on the United States as the source of all evil. Irony? Irony is all over the place.” [Associated Press, 8/23/1998] In the late 1980s, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, feeling the mujaheddin network has grown too strong, tells President George H. W. Bush, “You are creating a Frankenstein.” However, the warning goes unheeded. [Newsweek, 10/1/2001] By 1993, President Bhutto tells Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Peshawar is under de facto control of the mujaheddin, and unsuccessfully asks for military help in reasserting Pakistani control over the city. Thousands of mujaheddin fighters return to their home countries after the war is over and engage in multiple acts of violence. One Western diplomat notes these thousands would never have been trained or united without US help, and says, “The consequences for all of us are astronomical.” [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996]
A. Q. Khan (right) and Benazir Bhutto (center). [Source: CBC] (click image to enlarge)After becoming prime minister of Pakistan following the victory of the Pakistan People’s Party in elections, Benazir Bhutto does not play a large role in Pakistan’s nuclear policy, according to US analysts. It is unclear whether she chooses not to do so, or is cut out of it by the military. In her absence the two senior figures overseeing the program are President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and army head General Aslam Beg. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto refuses to visit North Korea during her first term in office. Bhutto will later say that she is pressured to go by her party, the Pakistan People’s Party, and there may be some link to co-operation on the two countries’ nuclear programs (see Late 1980s). Bhutto resists the pressure for fear it will generate adverse publicity in Western countries. However, Bhutto will go to North Korea in her second term in order to facilitate nuclear proliferation (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 244]
Hamid Gul, Nawaz Sharif, and Osama bin Laden conspire to assassinate Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Husein Haqqani, a Pakistani journalist who claims to have been involved in the plot, will later say that ISI Director Hamid Gul contacted Osama bin Laden, who was then known to provide financial support to Afghan mujaheddin, to pay for a coup/assassination of Bhutto. Gul also brings Nawaz Sharif, then the governor of Punjab province and a rival of Bhutto, into the plot. Bin Laden agrees to provide $10 million on the condition that Sharif transforms Pakistan into a strict Islamic state, which Sharif accepts. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 193-194] Bhutto is not assassinated at this time, but bin Laden allegedly helps Sharif replace Bhutto one year later (see October 1990).
The US briefs Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Pakistan’s nuclear program, and says it has decided to cut off aid to Pakistan in 1990, because US law does not permit aid to nuclear proliferators (see August 1985 and June 1989). However, current President George Bush and his predecessor Ronald Reagan falsely certified that Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons during the Soviet-Afghan war (see August 1985-October 1990 and 1987-1989). The initial briefing is provided by CIA Director William Webster and contains new information for Bhutto, who receives only limited information about her own country’s nuclear program (see After November 16, 1988). To dramatize the extent of American knowledge, Webster arranges for Bhutto to be shown a mockup of a Pakistani nuclear bomb. Mark Siegel, an associate of Bhutto, will later say she experienced feelings of disbelief: “The briefing was more detailed” than any information she had received from her own military and “showed that the military was doing it behind her back.” The next day, President George Bush tells her that in order to continue to receive US aid, she must assure the White House that her government will not take the final step of producing nuclear-bomb cores. Bush says he will still allow the sale of sixty more F-16 planes needed by to Pakistan, even though Pakistan has fitted such planes with nuclear weapons in the recent past, despite promising not to do so (see 1983-7). Despite this, the sale will not go through. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Pakistan is disappointed when Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is told during a visit to Washington that the US will cut off foreign aid to her nation, because of its nuclear weapons program (see June 1989). This new US policy comes about shortly after the withdrawal of the Soviet military from neighboring Afghanistan (see February 15, 1989). A US official will later say: “The Paks understood us better than we understood ourselves… They knew that once the Soviets were whipped in Afghanistan we wouldn’t need them anymore. Would we unilaterally defend Pakistan? Never. Our relationship with Pakistan was to counter the Soviet-Indian relationship. The Pakistanis knew that time was limited. And that’s why they went balls out on the nuclear program.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1991. [Source: BBC]Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto tells a joint session of the US Congress: “[W]e do not possess nor do we intend to make a nuclear device. That is our policy.” The statement receives “thunderous cheers” from members of both houses. However, Bhutto has been aware of Pakistan’s nuclear program for some time (see After November 16, 1988) and recently received a detailed briefing on it from the CIA (see June 1989). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
When the US learns of a crisis in relations between India and Pakistan that could escalate into nuclear war (see January-May 1990), President George Bush sends Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Gates to meet leaders of both countries in an attempt to prevent armed conflict. Gates will later say he appreciated the seriousness of the situation: “The analogy we kept making was to the summer of 1914… Pakistan and India seemed to be caught in a cycle that they couldn’t break out of. I was convinced that if a war started, it would be nuclear.” However, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who is on a tour of the Middle East, keeps changing the place where she is to meet Gates, indicating she has no desire to see him. Gates therefore only meets with Pakistani army chief Aslam Beg and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who say they will cease supporting insurgents in Kashmir. This is apparently enough to calm the Indians, who allow US officials to check that the Indian army is not on the border preparing to invade Pakistan, and the situation gradually calms down. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
In October 1990, Nawaz Sharif is running for election to replace Benazir Bhutto as the prime minister of Pakistan. According to a senior Pakistani intelligence source, bin Laden passes a considerable amount of money to Sharif and his party, since Sharif promises to introduce a hard-line Islamic government. Bin Laden has been supporting Sharif for several years. There is said to be a photograph of Sharif chatting with bin Laden. Sharif wins the election and while he does not introduce a hard-line Islamic government, his rule is more amenable to bin Laden’s interests than Bhutto’s had been. Sharif will stay in power until 1993, then will take over from Bhutto again in 1996 and rule for three more years. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 170-171] Former ISI official Khalid Khawaja, a self-proclaimed close friend of bin Laden, will later claim that Sharif and bin Laden had a relationship going back to when they first met face to face in the late 1980s. [ABC News, 11/30/2007] There are also accounts of additional links between Sharif and bin Laden (see Spring 1989, Late 1996, and Between Late 1996 and Late 1998).
In the early 1990s, future Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is an up-and-coming military general, who is in charge of military operations. He is a pupil of Hamid Gul, director of the ISI in the late 1980s and a long-time and open supporter of Osama bin Laden. Around 1993, he approaches Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto with a special plan to undermine Indian forces in the province of Kashmir, disputed between India and Pakistan. As Bhutto will later recall, “He told me he wanted to ‘unleash the forces of fundamentalism’ to ramp up the war” against India in Kashmir. Bhutto gives Musharraf the go-ahead, as she had lost power once before by opposing the Pakistani military and ISI, and “Second time around I did not want to rock the boat.” Musharraf approaches several Islamic organizations and commits them to supply volunteers who could be trained to fight as guerrillas in Kashmir. One group he works with is Markaz Dawa Al Irshad (MDI), founded several years before by followers of bin Laden. The MDI already has a military wing known as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Musharraf is allowed to use LeT’s fighters for his purposes in Kashmir and elsewhere. Other groups effectively created by Musharraf include Harkat ul-Ansar, later known as Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (see Early 1993). In the following months, the level of violence in Kashmir grows as the militias begin sending their fighters there. Around the same time, Musharraf sees early successes of the Taliban (see Spring-Autumn 1994), and along with Interior Minister Nasrullah Babar, begins secretly supporting them and supplying them. The two policies go hand-in-hand, because the militant groups begin training their fighters in parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban. The Pakistani policy of tacitly supporting these militias and the Taliban will continue until Musharraf takes power in a coup in 1999 (see October 12, 1999), and beyond. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 239-243]
US agents uncover photographs showing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has ties with the Pakistani ISI. Several weeks after the World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), US agents come to Pakistan to search for Ramzi Yousef for his part in that bombing. Searching the house of Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle, they find photographs of Zahid and KSM, who is also one of Yousef’s uncles, with close associates of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. [Financial Times, 2/15/2003] According to another account, the pictures actually show Zahid with Sharif, and also with Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, president of Pakistan until his death in 1988. [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 66] Pictures of Osama bin Laden are also found. US agents are unable to catch Yousef because Pakistani agents tip him off prior to the US raids. Yousef is able to live a semi-public life (for instance, he attends weddings), despite worldwide publicity naming him as a major terrorist. The Financial Times will later note that Yousef, KSM, and their allies “must have felt confident that their ties to senior Pakistani Islamists, whose power had been cemented within the country’s intelligence service [the ISI], would prove invaluable.” [Financial Times, 2/15/2003] Several months later, Yousef and KSM unsuccessfully attempt to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s (see July 1993). She is an opponent of Sharif and the ISI. [Slate, 9/21/2001; Guardian, 3/3/2003] The Los Angeles Times will later report that KSM “spent most of the 1990s in Pakistan. Pakistani leadership through the 1990s sympathized with Osama bin Laden’s fundamentalist rhetoric. This sympathy allowed [him] to operate as he pleased in Pakistan.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002]
Ramzi Yousef and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) unsuccessfully try to assassinate Behazir Bhutto, the leader of the opposition in Pakistan at the time. Yousef, with his friend Abdul Hakim Murad, plan to detonate a bomb near Bhutto’s home as she is leaving it. However, they are stopped by a police patrol. Yousef had hidden the bomb when the police approached, and after they left the bomb is accidentally set off, severely injuring him. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 25] KSM is in Pakistan at the time and will visit Yousef in the hospital, but his role in the bombing appears to be limited to funding it. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 25; Guardian, 3/3/2003] Bhutto had been prime minister in Pakistan before and will return to power later in 1993 until 1996. She will later claim, “As a moderate, progressive, democratically elected woman prime minister of Pakistan, I was a threat to the fundamentalist zealots on multiple levels…” She claims they had “the support of sympathetic elements within Pakistan’s security apparatus,” a reference to the ISI intelligence agency. [Slate, 9/21/2001] This same year, US agents uncover photographs showing KSM with close associates of previous Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Bhutto’s main political enemy at the time. Presumably, this failed assassination will later give KSM and Yousef some political connection and cover with the political factions opposed to Bhutto (see Spring 1993). Sharif will serve as prime minister again from 1997 to 1999. [Financial Times, 2/15/2003]
Nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan calls Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to get her approval for a takeover by Khan of a factory in Karachi. The factory, the People’s Steel Mill, had been closed down due to poor management and corruption. Bhutto will say she is surprised that Khan calls her at all: “Frankly, I was shocked. I had got used to not hearing from him.” According to Bhutto, “He said he could do something really hi-tech there that would aid all aspects of life but particularly his program at KRL [Khan Research Laboratories].” Bhutto agrees and the plant soon becomes a key component in Khan’s nuclear program. At the same time, Bhutto also agrees to go to North Korea to facilitate co-operation between the two countries’ nuclear programs (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 244]
Newly re-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto asks Pakistan army chief General Wahid Kakar about rumors she has heard of sales of nuclear equipment linked to Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Kakar denies that such sales are being made, but they do agree on one measure: giving the military control of access to Khan’s main research plant in Kahuta (see Late 1993). Bhutto will later say that at the start of her second term she made a decision not to become involved with Khan and his work, as she blamed it and her participation in it for her being thrown out of office at the end of her first term. She will also say that Khan was much changed by this time: “He was not the man I had met in my first term. The humility was gone. He was stubborn. Different. Rude. He was, having been awarded that strange title, ‘Father of the Bomb,’ now quite insufferable.” She also adds that Khan had become more religious and conservative, “quite the maulvi [religious scholar].” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 198, 498]
The Pakistani military sets up a control ring around Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in Kahuta. The ring comes about following a conversation between Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan army chief Wahid Kakar (see Late 1993). Bhutto will later say Kakar tells her, “Why don’t we set up a command and control for KRL so the scientists can’t go in and out without passing through the army ring?” At the time she thinks this is a good idea, as the labs will be cut off from the outside world and the military will be in charge of the perimeter. KRL will therefore be “airtight” and the scientists will not have the opportunity to smuggle things out, which she has heard may be a problem. However, Bhutto, who is never trusted by Pakistan’s military, will later say that this solution “ultimately played into the military’s hands and weakened my own.” One reason is the person who is put in charge of the project: General Khawaja Ziauddin. Bhutto will comment: “I didn’t know him. It was only later I found out that he was connected to the ISI and the forces pitted against me.” Ziauddin is the nephew of General Ghulam Jilani Khan, a former ISI chief who had helped make Bhutto’s rival Nawaz Sharif. In addition, he is close to army chief General Aslam Beg and powerful former ISI boss General Hamid Gul. Ziauddin will go on to become a key player in Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation activities. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 198, 498]
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto agrees to visit North Korea at the request of nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Khan asked Bhutto to go because he wanted more powerful missiles to carry nuclear weapons he has designed “into the depths of India.” Bhutto will later say she was shielded from Pakistan’s nuclear program and did not know about Pakistan’s missile capability until Khan told her. She will later describe her reply to Khan’s request: “I wanted it to be known that I would not stand in the military’s way, and when Khan told me that only a country like North Korea could provide the kind of intercontinental missiles we needed, I thought there was no harm in it. But I did tell him I would not give him the money to develop these missiles. I believed in parity. India had not escalated by creating such missiles, I thought, so Pakistan would not do so either.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 244]
Husein Haqqani, an aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, tells her that a planned trip to North Korea at the request of nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to facilitate nuclear co-operation between the two countries (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After) is a bad idea and she should not go. Haqqani will later say: “North Korea was an outlaw state, with few morals or qualms about trading in anything illicit and it was at loggerheads with the US. I told her the military and Khan were trying to trick her and that we should not be doing arms deals with [North Korea]. But she ignored me and asked me to accompany her. I cried off. I let a colleague go in my place. I let him think I was giving him a chance when I was actually watching my own back. All I kept thinking was, what happens many years down the line when this trip to North Korea is gone over? Such a thing could ruin a career. There was this bad smell about it.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 245]
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visits North Korea after being asked to do so by nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to help co-operation between the two countries on nuclear weapons and delivery systems (see Shortly Before December 29, 1993 and Shortly Before December 29, 1993).
Speech - At a formal dinner with North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, Bhutto says: “Nuclear non-proliferation should not be used as a pretext for preventing states from exercising fully their right to acquire and develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes geared to their economic and social development.” She adds: “Pakistan is committed to nuclear non-proliferation both at the global and regional level. It is not fair to cast doubts on Pakistan’s interests and to subject Pakistan to discriminatory treatment.”
Deal - Bhutto then asks Kim for blueprints for missiles that can deliver Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in a potential strike on India. Kim is surprised, but Bhutto emphasizes that “We need those missiles.” Kim agrees and proposes setting up technical teams, giving her information on computer discs to take home with her the next day.
Something More? - However, Bhutto will later remark: “They gave me a bag of materials. Kim said the teams each side selected would do the deal, whatever the deal was to be. I really had little idea of what they were discussing. I did wonder, though. Was it only missiles? They said it was to be a cash deal.” Bhutto will also say that General Khawaja Ziauddin, a close associate of Khan, was in charge of the deal for the Pakistanis.
Framed? - When Bhutto returns to Pakistan, she meets with one of her aides, Husein Haqqani, and shows him the bag of materials. Haqqani will later comment: “They could have been anything. It horrified me and I said so. She sensed then that the military had framed her. Her fingerprints were all over whatever their plan was for North Korea.” Bhutto gives the bag to Ziauddin, but will later say: “As far as I knew, the deal involved buying No-dong missiles for cash. But when I requested more information, the military clammed up.” After this trip, Bhutto is apparently not closely involved in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and is even unable to obtain information about its budget. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 247-249]
It is frequently reported that the Pakistani ISI created the Taliban. For instance, in 1996 CNN will report, “The Taliban are widely alleged to be the creation of Pakistan’s military intelligence [the ISI], which, according to experts, explains the Taliban’s swift military successes.” [CNN, 10/5/1996] And counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later claim that not only did the ISI create the Taliban, but they also facilitated connections between the Taliban and al-Qaeda to help the Taliban achieve victory. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 53] The Wall Street Journal will state in November 2001, “Despite their clean chins and pressed uniforms, the ISI men are as deeply fundamentalist as any bearded fanatic; the ISI created the Taliban as their own instrument and still support it.” [Asia Times, 11/15/2001] Technically, the Taliban appear to have actually started out on the own, but they were soon co-opted by the ISI and effectively became their proxy force (see Spring-Autumn 1994). Benazir Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan at the time, will later recall how ISI support grew in late 1994 and into early 1995. “I became slowly, slowly sucked into it.… Once I gave the go-ahead that they should get money, I don’t know how much money they were ultimately given.… I know it was a lot. It was just carte blanche.” Bhutto was actually at odds with her own ISI agency and will later claim she eventually discovered the ISI was giving them much more assistance than she authorized, including Pakistani military officers to lead them in fighting. [Coll, 2004, pp. 293-294]
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto claims that her country does not have a nuclear weapons program in an interview with British entertainer David Frost. “We have neither detonated nor have we got nuclear weapons,” she says. “Being a responsible state and a state committed to non-proliferation, we in Pakistan, through five successive governments, have taken a policy decision to follow a peaceful nuclear program.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will describe Frost as “incredulous” at hearing this denial. They will add: “It was a lie. She knew it.” The Pakistani military keeps many of the details of the program from Bhutto, but she is aware of the outline and even went on a mission to North Korea to get missiles to deliver locally-produced warheads the previous year (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 255-256, 511]
On a visit to Iran, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto quietly asks Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani about possible nuclear weapons transactions between their two countries. The question is prompted by rumors Bhutto has heard about some kind of nuclear weapons deals between them, and is put to Rafsanjani at a meeting with Bhutto and Pakistani President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari. Bhutto will later say: “I asked Rafsanjani: ‘Is there something going on? Is there a nuclear exchange?’ Rafsanjani looked surprised. He said he suspected it too but he said he knew nothing.” Bhutto will add that she later learns the Revolutionary Guard is the organization responsible for the deal in Iran, indicating Rafsanjani’s profession of ignorance may be genuine. The timing of this meeting is not entirely clear, as Bhutto visits Iran twice around this time, in December 1993 and November 1995. However, she is known to meet with Rafsanjani on November 7 during her second visit. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 255, 511]
Nuclear proliferator A. Q. Khan receives Pakistan’s highest civilian honor, the Nishan-i-Imtiaz, from Pakistani President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari. The decision to grant the award was taken by Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, following pressure from supporters of Khan (see July 4, 1996). Bhutto will later say that the supporters called her at her office, demanding more tangible recognition for Khan’s “invaluable work.” “They kept pressuring me,” she will recall. “There was no modesty about it.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 262]
Not long after bin Laden moves back to Afghanistan (see After May 18, 1996-September 1996), he tries to influence an election in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, is running for reelection against Nawaz Sharif, who had been prime minister earlier in the 1990s. (Bin Laden apparently helped Sharif win in 1990 (see October 1990).) “According to Pakistani and British intelligence sources, bin Laden traveled into Pakistan to renew old acquaintances within the ISI, and also allegedly met or talked with” Sharif. Sharif wins the election. Bhutto will later claim that bin Laden used a variety of means to ensure her defeat and undermine her. She will mention one instance where bin Laden allegedly gave $10 million to some of her opponents. Journalist Simon Reeve will later point out that while Bhutto claims could seem self-serving, “her claims are supported by other Pakistani and Western intelligence sources.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 188-189] It will later be reported that double agent Ali Mohamed told the FBI in 1999 that bin Laden gave Sharif $1 million at some point while Sharif was prime minister (see Between Late 1996 and Late 1998). There are also reports that bin Laden helped Sharif become prime minister in 1990 (see October 1990). While Sharif will not support the radical Islamists as much as they had hoped, they will have less conflict with him that they did with Bhutto. For instance, she assisted in the arrest of Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995), who had attempted to assassinate her (see July 1993).
On October 4, 2007, after secret talks with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in London and Dubai, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf issues an amnesty from prosecution for Bhutto and other exiled politicians. Bhutto and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have been living in exile as both had been facing corruption charges in Pakistan. Both are now free to return. As part of a deal, Bhutto agreed that the members of the main opposition political party she leads, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will abstain from voting when Musharraf runs for a second term as president two days later (in Pakistan, the president is chosen in a parliamentary vote). This ensures Musharraf’s victory (see October 6, 2007). Bhutto will return to Pakistan on October 18. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 386-387]
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf wins reelection to a second five-year term as president. In Pakistan, the president is selected by a simple majority from the parliament. Musharraf made a deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto two days earlier in which her party abstains from the vote and in return she is granted amnesty and is allowed to return to Pakistan (see October 4, 2007). Other parties also abstain, and as a result Musharraf wins almost unopposed, with 57 percent of total number of MPs voting for him. However, Pakistan’s Supreme Court rules that the official results can only be declared after it rules if Musharraf is eligible to win. Musharraf is both president and head of the military, and Pakistani law prohibits an active military official from being president. However, analysts doubt the court will overturn the result. [Associated Press, 10/7/2007]
Benazir Bhutto’s motorcade bombed in Karachi. [Source: BBC]Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returns to Pakistan after eight years in exile. Earlier in the month she had made a deal with President Pervez Musharraf that gave her amnesty in return for not opposing Musharraf’s reelection vote (see October 4, 2007). Bhutto, Pakistan’s most popular opposition politician, is greeted by large, enthusiastic crowds as she arrives in the city of Karachi. But as her motorcade is moving through the crowd at night, a suicide bomber approaches on foot and throws a grenade to attract attention. Then the bomber sets off a larger blast that kills at least 139 and injures around 400. Bhutto is not hurt, as she had just moved inside her vehicle from the roof moments before. CNN reporter Dan Rivers, filming the motorcade just before the attack, later comments on the lack of security. He says it was possible to walk right up to the side of her vehicle without being stopped. [CNN, 10/19/2007]
Bhutto Assigns Blame - The next day, Bhutto says, “I am not accusing the government [as a whole], but I am accusing certain individuals who abuse their positions, who abuse their powers.… I know exactly who wants to kill me. It is dignitaries of the former regime of General [Muhammad Zia ul-Haq] who are today behind the extremism and the fanaticism.” She has long accused the ISI of opposing her. Aides close to her say that she specifically names Ijaz Shah, a former ISI official linked to Saeed Sheikh (see February 5, 2002) and the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another Pakistani intelligence agency. She also says that an unnamed “brotherly country” had warned her that several suicide squads were plotting attacks against her, including squads from the Taliban and al-Qaeda. She says this government gave the Pakistani government the phone numbers the plotters were using, but implies investigators did not take advantage of the lead. She further says the street lamps had been turned off along the motorcade route, making it difficult for her security detail to scan the crowd for possible bombers, and demands an investigation into this. [New York Times, 10/20/2007]
Others Assign Blame - Her husband Asif Ali Zardari is more direct, saying, “I blame the government for these blasts. It is the work of the intelligence agencies.” The government by contrast complains that the security situation was extremely difficult. She was taking a big risk, moving though crowds of hundreds of thousands in a notoriously violent city of 16 million people. [Australian, 10/20/2007] The US by contrast, quickly blames al-Qaeda. Only one day after the bombing, US State Department officials say they believe there is a “strong al-Qaeda connection” and that it “bears the hallmarks” of an al-Qaeda attack. [CNN, 10/20/2007]
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gives an interview to David Frost of Al Jazeera in which she makes a number of noteworthy statements:
She says that Saeed Sheikh is “the man who murdered Osama bin Laden.” Saeed helped kidnap Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was later murdered (see January 23, 2002), is said to have provided money for the 9/11 hijackings (see Early August 2001), and is thought to have been in prison in Pakistan since 2002 (see February 12, 2002). Although bin Laden is thought to be alive at this time (see October 22, 2007), Frost does not ask a follow-up question about bin Laden’s alleged demise. [Al Jazeera, 11/2/2007] When a video of the interview is posted at the BBC’s website, this section is initially edited out, as the editor thinks Bhutto must simply have misspoken. However, the BBC accepts this was an error and later posts a full version of the interview. [BBC, 4/1/2008] This is the only known occasion that Bhutto makes this claim.
Based on information from a “friendly country,” she names four people and/or organizations that might attack her: al-Qaeda linked warlord Baitullah Mahsud; Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama; the “Pakistan Taliban in Islamabad”; and an unnamed group in Karachi.
While she thinks that such groups may be used for an attack on her, they are not pulling the strings, she says. She suggests three people may be behind an attack by one of the groups. The reason these three are said to want her dead is because she could stop the rise of terrorism in Pakistan. One of the three is former ISI officer Ijaz Shah, a “very key figure in security,” who she thinks has turned a blind eye or even colluded with militants, and who is an associate of Saeed Sheikh (see February 5, 2002). [Al Jazeera, 11/2/2007] Shah, a government official, will actually be in charge of protecting Bhutto from assassination when she is assassinated. The names of the other two said to be “pulling the strings” are not certain, but they are a prominent Pakistani figure, one of whose family members was allegedly murdered by a militant group run by Bhutto’s brother, and a well-known chief minister in Pakistan who is a longstanding opponent of Bhutto. [Daily Mail, 12/30/2007]
Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. [Source: Anjum Naveed Associated Press]On October 6, 2007, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf won a parliamentary vote that gave him a second term as president (see October 6, 2007). However, Pakistani law prohibits an active military officer from running as president, and Musharraf is both president and the head of the military. Pakistan’s Supreme Court is to decide soon if Musharraf’s reelection vote is valid. The outcome is uncertain, especially since the Supreme Court is headed by Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was fired by Musharraf earlier in the year and then reinstated against Musharraf’s will (see March 9, 2007). But on November 3, before the court renders a verdict, Musharraf declares a state of emergency. He suspends the constitution and basic rights. He fires Chaudhry and all the other Supreme Court judges, and places them under house arrest. He also forces all other high court judges to sign a loyalty oath validating his actions. A majority refuse to sign and are placed under house arrest as well. All private television stations are taken off the air, leaving only one state-controlled network to give the news. Up to ten thousand activists and politicians are arrested. The main opposition politician, Benazir Bhutto, is placed under house arrest for several days. Musharraf then passes six constitutional amendments legalizing his rule. In a further effort to legitimize his rule, he also resigns from the army on November 28 and gives command of the army to Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, a former ISI director. But still facing widespread condemnation at home and abroad, he lifts the state of emergency on December 15, rescinds the draconian measures he imposed, and releases the thousands who have been arrested (however, Chaudhry and the other fired judges remain under house arrest). He announces that elections to pick a new prime minister will be held in January 2008. Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “The forty-two-day-long emergency had blighted Pakistan, undermined its economy, destroyed what little trust the political parties and public had in Musharraf, and turned the increasingly influential middle-class and civil society against both the army and the president.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 387-388]
Al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid allegedly claims responsibility for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto earlier in the day. Syed Saleem Shahzad, a journalist for both the Adnkronos International (AKI) news service and the Asia Times, claims to have gotten a call from al-Yazid. Speaking in faltering English, al-Yazid reportedly says, “We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujaheddin.” It is further alleged that the assassination was planned by al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. US officials say they cannot confirm the claim. [AKI, 12/27/2007; ABC News, 12/27/2007]
Pakistan holds parliamentary elections, and opposition parties are the overwhelming winners. President Pervez Musharraf does not lose his presidency, as he was reelected by the National Assembly several months earlier (see October 6, 2007). However, his party, Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), loses control of the National Assembly, enabling the opposition parties to select their own prime minister a short time later. Much power will now shift to the position of prime minister, which had been completely overshadowed by Musharraf and his presidency since he took power in a coup in 1999 (see October 12, 1999). The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) wins 120 seats. The PPP was led by Benazir Bhutto until her recent assassination, and is now led by her husband, Asif Ali Zardari. The Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), the party led by former primer minister Nawaz Sharif, gets 90. Musharraf’s PML-Q only wins 51 seats. Surprisingly, the Islamic parties are almost completely wiped out. The alliance of Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), did well and won two provincial elections in the last election in 2002, but this time it only wins six seats. A secular and moderate party, the Awami National Party, wins in the North-West Frontier Province, taking control from the MMA and forming the new provincial government there. No single party holds a majority, but the PPP immediately announces a coalition with Sharif’s PML-N party, shutting Musharraf’s PML-Q party out. Musharraf once had 80 percent popularity ratings in polls, but after many recent controversial moves, including declaring a state of emergency for over a month to stay in power (see November 3-December 15, 2007), his popularity rating is down to about 20 percent. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 390-391] One month later, the coalition selects a relatively unknown figure, Yousaf Raza Gillani, to be the new prime minister (see March 22-25, 2008).
Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of assassinated former leader Benazir Bhutto, becomes president of Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf resigned as president the previous month after growing pressure suggested he could be impeached (see August 18, 2008). A three-week election campaign quickly followed, and Zardari easily won the election (an electoral college vote, not a general election). Zardari’s elections completes Pakistan’s return to civilian rule after Musharraf seized power in a military coup nine years earlier. [Guardian, 9/9/2008]
"Mr. Ten Percent" - Zardari has a troubled history of numerous corruption allegations. His popular nickname, “Mr. Ten Percent,” refers to the widespread belief in Pakistan that he took a cut from many business deals when his wife Bhutto was prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s. He spent 11 years in prison on corruption charges, although he was never actually convicted of a crime. Bhutto seemed poised for a return to power, but when she was assassinated in late 2007, Zardari essentially took her place as head of her political party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Supporters say he has matured during his years in prison. [Wall Street Journal, 9/5/2008]
Former US Representative Michael D. Barnes (D-MD) claims that ex-Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto firmly believed Osama bin Laden was being protected by the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Barnes says that he was a good friend of Bhutto before her assassination in 2007, and he regularly socialized with her when she visited the US. He says that on more than one occasion, she told him that she was virtually certain bin Laden was not living in a remote mountain cave. Instead, she claimed: “He’s living comfortably somewhere in Pakistan. He’s being supported and protected by Pakistani intelligence. You can bet on it.” She also complained that the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the ISI were “in cahoots,” working together to attack US forces in Afghanistan. She felt her own life could be in danger (see December 27, 2007) because of her opposition to this covert Pakistani policy. [Washington Post, 5/13/2011]
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