Benazir Bhutto on Pakistan and Osama

She is quite a person. From an ordinary Pakistanis standpoint she has been one of the most corrupt PM along with Nawaz Sharif.. and from Indian standpoint she was one of those who for her survival – or intent – gave boost to the many jehadis in the region to the utter chagrin of the Indians!

She is articulate.. but honest.. well thats another matter!

NEWSWEEK: Why hasn’t Osama Bin Laden been found?
Benazir Bhutto: I believe that elements of the [Pakistani] military security apparatus have a lot of sympathy for bin Laden. General Musharraf is relying on the [military] to find bin Laden, and it’s simply not going to happen. What we really need is a change, and I believe that change has to come by going to the civilian option.

How would you rate General Musharraf’s performance as a partner to the United States in the Bush administration’s fight against terror?
I think General Musharraf took the right decision following the events of 9/11 to stand with the international community to fight terrorism. But I question how effective he has been in eliminating terrorism. There is a lack of implementation of his decisions in many parts of the country, and we have seen in [recent] years how the Taliban have reorganized themselves, and their goal is to take over Afghanistan once again. The religious parties have gained strength within Pakistan and today control of two of our most important provinces that border Afghanistan. Militant groups that were [once] banned—who were attacking New Delhi, Bombay—are re-emerging and hold peace between India and Pakistan hostage. When I look at the rise of the religious parties, the reorganization of the Taliban and the persistence of the militant groups, I worry for Pakistan’s future.

Is it true that you initially supported the Taliban when they first formed in Afghanistan?
When the Taliban first emerged, the United States, Pakistan and many other countries saw them as a force for peace, but soon we became disillusioned. There’s a difference between Taliban with Al Qaeda and Taliban without Al Qaeda. When the first Taliban emerged, there was no Al Qaeda. They were there as Afghans trying to be a political force within Afghanistan. After the overthrow of my government in 1996, they allowed Al Qaeda to set up training camps. At that time, I was leader of the opposition in the Pakistani Parliament, and I called upon the government to issue an ultimatum to the Taliban that unless they evicted Al Qaeda, Pakistan would break relations with them. Unfortunately, my calls fell on deaf ears.

Describe your new alliance with former political rival Nawaz Sharif. What are your intentions going forward?
I traveled to Saudi Arabia last year to meet with Mr. Sharif. I told him that [people] inside and outside Pakistan are concerned that both of us spend so much time fighting each other [and] that if democracy was restored, we might have another round of senseless political battles. We needed to send a signal that we’ve learned our lessons and that next time it will be different. We came up with a “Charter of Democracy” [which is] aimed at creating a political system of checks and balances. In Pakistan, politics is a zero-sum game, but we believe that there should be a place within the system for divergent political views. A democratic society will also create tolerance among the young people in Pakistan who are confused by conflicting messages. On the one hand, they hear about the beauty of an accountable, transparent governance system that empowers ordinary people. But their reality is that power flows from the gun. We need to reverse the culture of violence and replace it with a culture of law and tolerance.

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