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Home > News > Report

'Army is involved directly or indirectly in Bhutto's assassination'

Ajit Jain in Toronto | December 28, 2007 03:44 IST

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has condemned the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [Images]

'Canada condemns this attack on the restoration of Pakistan's efforts to return to full democracy,' he said in a statement from his office in Ottawa.  "Today's violence is especially heinous, in view of the upcoming elections on January, 8, 2008.  The anti-democratic intent of the perpetrators could not be more obvious."

Bernier urged the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people "to continue to reject all forms of violence and to resist those who seek to destabilize their country.  Stability is vital for democracy, regional stability and security.' 

According to Liberal Leader Stephen Dion, "The assassination of Bhutto puts the security of the entire region at risk and undermines the cause of democracy and freedom in Pakistan."

He believes: "The global community recognizes that extremism and anti-democratic forces in Pakistan, particularly given that it is a nuclear power, threaten the stability of the region and the world."

This attack, he said, "Marks a step backwards for Pakistan, at a time when the nation should be moving forward toward an open and democratic system of government."

Haroon Siddiqui, Editorial Page Editor (Emeritus) of the Toronto Star and a well-known expert on South Asia told that "Assassination of Bhutto throws Pakistan into one of its worst crises."

 "The Pakistan-US alliance was forged solely in the name of fighting the war on terrorism. That has not been a success," Siddiqui noted.  "The American policy on Pakistan needs to move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy.  That means not just a 'show of democracy' � as the January election was going to be, with Bhutto providing a democratic sheen to a Musharraf regime � but a genuine commitment to real democracy," he said.

For Ashok Kapur, Professor of Political Science, University of Waterloo in Ontario, the assassination of Bhutto "strengthens Taliban's hands."

He also pointed out that after the first attempt on her life, "Bhutto gave Musharraf names of three persons with ISI connections but as far as I know, he did nothing about it.  There was no arrest, no investigation."

Bhutto's assassination will have far reaching ramifications, feels Kapur.

"Morale of the Taliban will go up in Pakistan, as well as in Afghanistan.  If they have a free hand in Pakistan, they have a free hand in Afghanistan.  If Musharraf can't control the Taliban in Pakistan, who is going to control the Taliban in Afghanistan?"

"Musharraf  is an indispensable ally for the fight against terrorism for the Bush administration," explained Kapur and he cited how George Bush [Images] himself  "brokered the deal for reintroducing Benazir Bhutto into the Pakistani politics as his idea was to give legitimacy to Musharraf and to create some kind of a moderating voice in the Pakistani politics."

"Now, there is no moderating influence and no legitimacy to the January 8 election. Bhutto undoubtedly was a charismatic leader and a popular leader with a great deal of following in Pakistan," said Kapur. 

"Saudi Arabia can keep a check on Pakistan but they don't say anything. India can talk about democracy but it is following a non-interference policy on Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar etc. So, there's a greater burden now on the US to think through all these developments and do something about them."

Kapur argued that the suicide bomber couldn't have functioned alone and that too in Rawalpindi, Pakistan's military headquarters:

"Rawalpindi is one of the most secure places in Pakistan.  Assassination of Bhutto shows inside support behind this heinous act. It didn't happen in a remote place.  The Army is involved directly or indirectly in Bhutto's assassination."

He cited Pakistan's history of unsolved political assassinations: "Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated and it remains unsolved.  Zia's plane mysteriously crashed and that also remains unsolved.   Bhutto becomes another assassination.  This is bad news all around: Bad news for Pakistan, bad news for Musharraf and his political future," Kapur stated.

Incidentally, Canada [Images], whose troops are currently fighting in Kandhar (Afghanistan), has no leverage in Pakistan.  "So, NATO and Canada have to work with the US and try and persuade the Bush administration to have a close look at Musharraf, the role of the Pakistani military and consider their other options."

Kapur believes that this is the time "for deep reflection and rethinking and building new options."

Zubair Choudhry, a Pakistani-Canadian and founder of the South Asian Regional Cooperation Council of Canada, told this reporter their members, "Are deeply concerned about the political crisis due to the death of Benazir Bhutto.  She was the only hope for the people of Pakistan to restore democracy in the country."

 "We believe that her assassination is a plot of anti-democratic and anti-secular forces in the country to halt the democratic process in Pakistan," he said. 

An unstable Pakistan may cause instability in the South Asian region: "Under the current circumstances, it is very crucial that a third party (Canada) call a round table conference of all political parties in Pakistan and set the rules of political conduct under the supervision of international observers,' Choudhry suggested

"Elections have now become farcical.  You can't call it a fair and free election if a popular leader is wiped out. The other popular leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has been debarred by the Election Commission from contesting," said Kapur.

Haroon Siddiqui believes, "Bhutto's assassination will slow down the Indo-Pakistan peace track.  For one thing, the rulers in Islamabad are otherwise occupied and, secondly, India would want to wait for the situation to settle down."