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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bhutto's Rival Blames Death on Government

This is from the New York Times. According to this article the Pakistan People's Party that Bhutto led has not decided whether or not to participate in the January elections if they are held. If the party decides to run then Sharif's party will probably be forced to run as well. Sharif is not favored by the US and he blames the US for supporting Musharraf and he also blamed Bhutto for trying to make deals with Musharraf. Bhutto and the US have said little about the lawyers and supreme court judges who were removed from their posts and jailed for some time. Sharif on the other hand has made restoring the judges one of his prime aims.

Bhutto’s Rival Blames Death on Government
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
Published: December 29, 2007
NAUDERO, Pakistan — A former prime minister of Pakistan came and laid a wreath Saturday on the grave of his former political rival.




There were riots Friday across Pakistan, including the eastern city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border.
But just before he did it, Nawaz Sharif blamed the military government of Pervez Musharraf for pulling Pakistan into the “grave crisis” that resulted in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. His words were terse, his eyes dry.

“His policies are responsible,” Mr. Sharif said in an interview on a specially chartered propeller plane that took him to Ms. Bhutto’s ancestral village. “Whether he is responsible or not, an independent commission will have to investigate. No commission can be independent if Musharraf is in charge of this government.”

Mr. Sharif’s antipathy to Mr. Musharraf runs deep. The former general ousted Mr. Sharif in a 1999 coup, which Mr. Sharif tried to prevent by blocking the landing of Mr. Musharraf’s plane in Karachi. Mr. Sharif was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for that, though the sentence was later modified to exile in Saudi Arabia, from which he returned last month.

On Saturday, Mr. Sharif flew to an airstrip in Mohenjo-Daro, where South Asian civilization was born some 5,000 years ago, and from there to the ancestral village of Ms. Bhutto, Naudero, where senior leaders of both their parties met briefly to give their sympathies and discuss the way forward. Mr. Sharif has already said his party would boycott the polls, scheduled for Jan. 8.

He said on his way to Naudero that he hoped Ms. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party would join the boycott. “With Musharraf, Pakistan doesn’t have a future,” he said in the interview.

Farha Tullah Babar, a spokesman for the Pakistan People’s Party, said it was too early for his organization to make a decision about whether to go ahead and contest the elections. The party’s executive council is to meet Sunday afternoon to discuss their plans, including “how the party will be led and by whom,” he said.

Mr. Sharif’s journey the day after Ms. Bhutto was buried traveled the road to Naudero still lined with portraits of Ms. Bhutto’s beaming face, where she was embraced as its native daughter and the town being the stronghold of her party. Mr. Sharif met with Ms. Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, as well as members of the executive council, inside the Bhutto family home.

In the courtyard, hundreds of party members had gathered to mourn for the last two days. Some sat quietly; others shouted slogans when Mr. Sharif’s entourage came in: “By the name of God and his prophet, Benazir is innocent.”

In one corner of the courtyard, a party member named Kaiser Bengali said that he could not help but be struck by the slogan. “I see more anger than grief,” he said.

There is plenty of bad blood between the two parties. It was Mr. Sharif who initially brought a raft of corruption charges against Ms. Bhutto and her husband and Mr. Sharif became prime minister, after her government was dismissed in 1996, charges that Mr. Musharraf continued to pursue until recently.

Mr Sharif was also making a journey across the divide between his native Punjab, the richest and most populous province of Pakistan, and Sindh, its poorer, harsher neighboring province, one of Pakistan’s three minority provinces.

Even political leaders said they noticed a hardening rage against the Punjabi elite that dominates Pakistan’s military and government institutions. The spokesman Mr Babar, himself a Pashtun, one of Pakistan’s other minorities, described the mood as a “strange kind of resentment against the federation itself.” He and other members of the party have warned that the central government under Mr. Musharraf has alienated the three minority provinces and placed dangerous strains on the unity of the country.

“People were shouting slogans,” he said, “The frightening thing was that the federation had lost meaning for them. Yesterday hundreds of thousands of people gathered, they were angry, they were sad, their eyes were full of fire which is hard to describe,” he said.

Mr. Sharif, in the interview, railed against the Bush administration for its “blind support to the Musharraf government.”

He continued: “Now that a major Pakistani political leader has been assassinated, why is he still supporting this man? The whole nation is asking these questions. Does Mr. Bush consider Musharraf his friend or Pakistan his friend?”

He warned that Mr. Bush’s support of the Musharraf government would only heighten anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and the region.

Asked whether he would do anything differently to counter terrorist groups in his country, Mr. Sharif offered no specific remedy except a return to democratic rule. “Terror cannot be fought by one single man,” he said. “A truly elected sovereign parliament is the only answer. Otherwise, Mr. Musharraf is leading this country into a very grave crisis. We are in that crisis.”

Mr. Sharif ruled out negotiations with Mr. Musharraf. “No negotiations with this man,” he said. “Any negotiations and I will be offending the feelings of a 160 million people in this country.”

Muhammad Mian Soomro, the caretaker prime minister, told reporters in Islamabad on Friday that the government would hold talks with all political parties to chart a plan of action, but that “right now, the elections stand as they were announced.”

The Pakistan Peoples Party has not decided on its election plans, though it could be expected to win an overwhelming sympathy vote, which could give it a majority in Parliament, analysts and politicians said. Other parties could also suffer in the polls from a backlash after the death of a national leader.

Several leading politicians said they did not think the government could go ahead with elections so soon after what is being described as a national tragedy that has dismayed people across the political spectrum.

“Speaking on a personal level, there is no mood or inclination to have an election,” said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League faction that backs Mr. Musharraf. He said the elections could be postponed until March to allow people time to regroup. “Right now there is so much uncertainty.”

The death toll from continuing violence across the country since Ms Bhutto’s death rose Saturday to 38, Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said. The worst violence has been in Sindh province where protesters have burned buildings and looted shops, but Brigadier Cheema said criminal elements were taking advantage of the situation and Ms. Bhutto’s supporters were not to blame.

He warned anti-government elements of dire consequences if they continued in their destruction. Over 750 shops had been torched and 18 railways stations had been burned, he said.

The controversy over how Ms. Bhutto died has further fueled tension in the country. Three women who washed her body before burial dismissed the government’s version that she had died from hitting her head on a lever in the car roof and said they had seen a bullet wound in the back of Ms Bhutto’s head.

A party spokeswoman, Sherry Rehman, said she was present when they bathed Ms. Bhutto’s body after her death and said she had seen a wound where a bullet has passed through her neck and exited through the back of her head.

Brigadier Cheema stood by his earlier statement that she died from a fractured skull caused by a fall against a lever of the car.

“What we gave you were facts, absolute facts corroborated by the doctors’ reports,” he said at a news briefing Saturday. The medical report released by the government, signed by six doctors, makes no mention of a bullet wound and describes a single wound “on the right temporoparietal region.” It gave the cause of death as “open head injury with depressed skull fracture, leading to cardiopulmonary arrest.”

Brigadier Cheema ruled out an inquiry by international experts into Ms Bhutto’s death, saying that Pakistan did not need any help in the investigation.

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