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US House passes resolution condemning Bhutto's killing
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | January 17, 2008 02:12 IST
The United States House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a resolution that condemns in the strongest terms the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [Images] by a vote of 413-0.
Congressman Gary Ackerman, New York Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, introduced the resolution.
The resolution by Ackerman, twice former co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, was the first piece of legislation to be taken up and passed in 2008.
The resolution, besides condemning the killing of Bhutto and 20 others at a political rally in Rawalpindi, also reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to assist the people of Pakistan in combating terrorism, and promoting a free and democratic Pakistan.
It also supported efforts by the government of Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice those responsible for the assassination and expressed condolences to the Bhutto family and the families of those who were killed or injured in the attack.
The resolution, also urged the people and government of Pakistan to be relentless in their pursuit of a democratically-elected government, including the holding of free and fair elections at the earliest possible opportunity.
Further, the measure expressed support for the freedom of the media, the ability of political parties to express their views without restriction, and the independence of the judiciary in Pakistan.
Ackerman said his resolution "formally expresses to the world, the outrage and dismay of the House regarding the cruel and cowardly assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It also expresses our unwavering support -- in the wake of this brutal attack -- for Pakistan to be restored to a full democracy."
During the debate that preceded the adoption of the resolution, Ackerman told his Congressional colleagues that Bhutto had returned to Pakistan in October after several years in exile "in an attempt to bring Pakistan back to the democratic fold and inject a voice of moderation into the Pakistani parliamentary elections."
He said that that her killers cut short that effort in an attack that was one of 40 suicide bombings that killed 700 people in Pakistan during 2007.
Ackerman who recalled that Bhutto's life was marked by tragedy that played out on Pakistan's public stage (her father was hung by the former Pakistani dictator Mohamed Zia-ul Haq's regime and her brother was murdered) and that as prime minister, she was twice removed from office by the army amid allegations of corruption and would up in self-imposed exile, nonetheless argued that yet she remained popular with the people of Pakistan, especially those in her home province of Sindh, and the awful events of December 27 demonstrate, she was perceived as a threat by someone.
The lawmaker, who has been one of the most acerbic critics of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] and has slammed the Bush Administration for continuing to pander to the Pakistani leader, whom he has often accused of playing a double-game of assuring Washington that he is allied in the global war on terror against the al Qaeda and the Taliban, yet is suspect in his commitment even as he pockets billions of dollars in US military and economic largesse, repeated these concerns during his remarks on the floor of the House.
Ackerman said, "The United States and the rest of the international community has a vital interest in supporting a free, stable and secure Pakistan so as to stem the rise of extremism in South Asia, prevent global acts of terrorism from originating in Pakistan, and support the movement toward stable political institutions, democratic values and the rule of law."
He argued that the fact that al Qaeda, the Taliban and other extremist elements are using the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to regroup, retain, and recruit for future attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a dangerous component of instability that when added to Pakistan's possession of nuclear weapons conjures up the frightening possibility of terrorists with access to weapons of mass destruction.
"All of this means that the United States and the rest of the international community needs to do all we can to promote and support Pakistan's economic, social, and political development to prevent Pakistan from becoming a failed state," he added.