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'LeT endangering existence of Pak'

Former Pak PM Benazir Bhutto says she will "close down" operations of LeT from Pakistani soil if re-elected.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2006 12:45 IST

Voicing "deep pain" over Mumbai train blasts, former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has said the activities of terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) endangered the very existence of her country.

She said she will "close down" operations of LeT and other terrorist groups from Pakistani soil if re-elected to the post and given the powers to act.

"I believe such groups are undermining Pakistan's integrity... giving Pakistan a bad name... And endangering Pakistan's very existence," she told a television channel.

When pointed out that India believed that LeT, which is backed by Pakistan's ISI, could be involved in the Mumbai blasts, Bhutto said, "Certainly LeT is a militant group... If LeT is behind these blasts, then it shows (President Pervez) Musharraf has failed despite seven years in power in undermining the group that wreaked havoc".

At the same time, she expressed doubts over any Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai explosions saying, "no connection has been made with Pakistan and there may be none".

Observing that she was "deeply pained, as do many people in Pakistan, over the tragic events that took place in Mumbai," the Pakistan People's Party leader said if re-elected and given the power, she would "close down" terrorist camps if they were operating from her country.

Asked if India should be given Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status by Pakistan in trade, Bhutto said during the 1988 SAARC Summit, she had proposed to all member-country leaders, including Rajiv Gandhi, that there should be a South Asian Preferential Tariff Agreement.

"In my second term (as the Prime Minister), I ratified it because I felt SAARC should be more than a cultural association".

On the 1999 Kargil conflict, Bhutto said she, along with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had drawn up a 'charter for democracy', which includes setting up of a commission to probe the role of Musharraf and all others "responsible for the miscalculation".

Bhutto and Sharif are part of the movement for restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

She said she also accepted Sharif's statement that "he did not know about the Kargil affair".

On the issue of her return to Pakistan, Bhutto said she had "the courage to repeat history."

"I plan to go back to Pakistan for the election campaign of 2007," she claimed.

Asked if she was ready to go to jail, she said, "What is jail? I have been in jail for nearly six years."

She also said she trusted her new ally and former Premier Sharif. "Of course, I trust his commitment to a common future" for Pakistan, Bhutto, said.

"They will be closed down if the Constitution gives me the chief executive's powers. At the moment, the Prime Minister does not have the power of the chief executive. They lie with the President", Bhutto said, adding she would prefer to be the prime minister with the chief executive's powers. 

Asked if she would control anti-India tirade of Pakistan-based terrorist leaders like Masood Azhar or detain them, Bhutto said "yes. First control them and if they do not behave detain them".

Replying to a question, she said, "during my tenure (as the Prime Minister), there were no attacks outside Kashmir".

On Indo-Pak relations, the PPP leader, who is living abroad in self-exile, said she believed relations with India could not be "kept hostage" to the Kashmir dispute.

"I do believe in freedom and the right of self- determination. I believe that the people of Kashmir must decide their own future.

"However, at the same time, I believe that relations with India cannot be kept hostage to the Kashmir problem," she said, adding the issue should be settled in accordance with the UN resolutions and the Simla accord.

"India and China have a conflict but Indian and Chinese relations still remain good. So, we have got to agree that we have a dispute in Kashmir, but we must not allow it to hamper Indo-Pak relations," she said.

She claimed Musharraf's proposal to do away with the UN resolutions did not have any widespread backing in her country.

"It is essential to proceed on trade. The world is being divided into economic trading blocks and the people of the sub-continent will only have a better future if we can work together," she said.