A leading Pakistani newspaper on Saturday identified the ‘three men’ Benazir Bhutto had mentioned in her press conference after Friday’s blasts as the people who wanted to eliminate her. She had, however, refused to name them.
<b1>According to The News, they are Arbab Ghulam Rahim, chief minister of Sindh, Chaudhry Perwez Elahi, chief minister of Punjab and Brigadier (retired) Ejaz Shah, director general of Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau. While the revelation has drawn denials from many quarters, both President Pervez Musharraf and the government have significantly remained silent.
At her press conference Bhutto said she had written to President Musharraf before her arrival in Pakistan alleging that these three wanted her killed. If true, it is a huge embarrassment for the government, since both the chief ministers of Sindh and Punjab owe their political survival to Musharraf’s patronage.
Even as investigations into the blasts, which killed 139 people, made little headway, political observers held that the horrific incident could well bring Bhutto and Musharraf even closer.
It would help Bhutto convince her critics that the deal she was brokering with Musharraf was essential, since all moderate forces needed to come together to fight the extremists.
As Bhutto said at her press conference, “Many have criticised the deal but it is being done to avoid bloodshed and ensure an orderly transfer of power to the people.”
For his part, General Musharraf has maintained that his government was talking to Bhutto as part of a larger attempt to engage moderate forces in the country. Musharraf says that the war being fought in parts of Pakistan between the army and militants was in fact, “a war between moderates and extremists.”
The political future of Bhutto looks bright following the unprecedented response she received and the manner in which she was welcomed in Karachi earlier this week.
However, for her to be able to contest elections and be nominated as Pakistan's next prime minister, the government has to waive a rule that disallows third time PMs. This rule was deliberately introduced by the Musharraf government to bar both Nawaz Sharif and Bhutto from being re-elected.