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Benazir planning to return to Pak despite life threat
April 10, 2007 13:31 IST
Exiled former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto has said that she is preparing to return to her country this year despite threats of arrests and assassination.
"As I prepare to return to an uncertain future in Pakistan in 2007, I fully understand the stakes not only for myself, and my country, but the entire world," she wrote in her revised autobiography Benazir Bhutto - Daughter of the East.
"I realise I can be arrested. I realise that like the assassination of Philippine Senator Benigno Aquino in Manila in August 1983, I can be gunned down on the airport tarmac when I land. After all, Al Qaeda has tried to kill me several times. Why would we think they would not try again as I return from exile to fight for the democratic elections they so detest, Bhutto, the Pakistan Peoples Party chief, asked.
She hastened to add, "But I do what I have to do, and am determined to return to fulfil my pledge to the people of Pakistan to stand by them in their democratic aspirations."
According to her, in the fall of 1993, her assassination was ordered and the 'chosen assassin was a Pakistani with ties to the ISI during the Afghan Jihad. His name was Ramzi Yusef. He had participated in the first attack on the World Trade Centre in New York earlier that same year, on February 26.
"After the February bombings, Yusef escaped the United States and returned to Pakistan. Seven months later, he was assigned to assassin me. He attempted to kill me on two separate occasions during the election campaign of 1993."
"In September, accompanied by two colleagues, he placed a complex bomb, designed to be ignited by remote control, in the street in front of my house. He planned to detonate it while my car was coming out of my garage. As he attempted to plant the apparatus, a passing police patrol stopped and asked him what he was doing.
"He said that he was looking for his keys, which he had dropped in the street. Police were sceptical and told him to leave immediately. Apparently, Yusef injured himself later that night trying to dismantle the weapon and went to hospital for treatment. Hospital ledgers showed that he lost a finger, in an unexplained manner, that same night.
"Undeterred, Ramzi Yusef and his group set off again at the explicit instructions of his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his backers, to kill me. Khalid Sheikh, as we now know, went on to become the 'CEO' of Al Qaeda and is suspected of personally beheading Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal Bureau Chief (he is currently in US custody).
"They planned to strike me down yet again, but this time the plot was even more complicated with a secondary political motive to turn elements of the PPP against each other. The plan, designed by Al Qaeda and the intelligence agencies, was based on assassinating me and making it look like my brother was responsible.
According to Bhutto, when Ramzi Yusef was captured by her government in 1995, he had in his possession plans for hijacking US commercial aircraft and using them as weapons against buildings.
"Al Qaeda had similar plans to hijack several commercial jets on the same day over the Pacific as a mass terrorist attack," she said.
Emphasising that democracy in Pakistan was not just important for Pakistanis but for the entire world, she said, "In this age of the exploitation and radical interpretation of my beloved religion, we must always remember that democratic governments do not empower, protect and harbour terrorists.
In a new chapter -- 'Prime Minister and Beyond' -- Bhutto recalled that during her tenure as prime minister in the first term in February 1989, when she asserted authority over the ISI in May, Bin Laden was asked by the ISI (with whom he had long and close relations) to help overthrow the democratic government and install a theocratic rule in Pakistan.
"Bin Laden committed the robust sum of $10 million for the no-confidence move by attempting to buy out my parliamentary supporters."
The no-confidence motion brought by the IJI with the support of the ISI and Bin Laden failed by 12 votes on November 1, 1989.
"But it set the pattern of confrontation and manipulation with an ISI/foreign extremist alliance that would plague Pakistan and the entire world for decades to come," she wrote.
"Around this time, I received a report that a Saudi aeroplane had landed in Pakistan loaded with mango boxes. Since Saudi Arabia grows dates and not mangoes, we were quite suspicious. The civilian intelligence found that the boxes did not contain mangoes but rather money. I thought I had the support of the Saudi King Fahd. When I met him, he praised my father and recounted how he tried to save my father's life.