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Benazir blames establishment

October 23, 2007

KARACHI, Oct 22: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Benazir Bhutto said on Monday that she had “no information at this stage to conclude that Gen Musharraf was involved at any level in this conspiracy” (to assassinate her on Oct 18).

But Ms Bhutto said she was certain the establishment was behind the conspiracy.

“There are some powerful figures behind the assassination atrempt on me,” a Western agency quoted her as saying during a press conference at Bilawal House.

Ms Bhutto said she had requested President Musharraf to provide security officials of her choice, but there had been no response so far.

According to agency reports, Benazir Bhutto accused the chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, of ‘protecting the killers’. She gave no evidence to back up her claim, and provided no further details.

But Shujaat Hussain gave a far different story. He said Ms Bhutto’s husband, working with her and other party leaders, arranged the blasts to stir up public sympathy for her. The proof: Ms Bhutto went into her armoured vehicle minutes before the bombs exploded.

‘We will also say all this was a conspiracy,’’ Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain told a private television network, reacting to Ms Bhutto’s accusations of government involvement in the Karachi attack. Instead, he said, Ms Bhutto’s husband “hatched a conspiracy and they implemented it”.

“I am simply appalled by the statement of the president of the PML-Q that the PPP itself carried out the explosions. This is the kind of mindset that tries to validate terrorism.”

Ms Bhutto again threw the spotlight on the intelligence agencies, alleging that some Afghan mujahideen had “infiltrated the ISI and the country’s administration.

“They have a tacit support of senior officials.”

The former prime minister said she had an apprehension that “certain elements” would go to “any extent” to subvert the political process.

“There is a lot of money invloved -- narco money and gun-running money -- and chaos suits certain elements. So obviously we have concern about people who were associated with the Afghan jihad and who can go to any extent to stop democracy because it means death of extremism.”

GOVT-PPP DEAL: Ms Bhutto brushed aside allegations that she had cut a deal with a military ruler.

“I know my opponents say I am doing a deal with a dictator, but I am not. I am involved in dialogue for transition to democracy.

“My party says that we cannot work with a uniformed president. But we are in dialogue with the government about a mechanism for ensuring free and fair elections.”

Benazir Bhutto expressed concern over the decision to entrust the inquiry into Thursday’s tragedy to an official allegedly involved in the torture of her husband in prison eight years ago.