9/11 could have been avoided: Benazir | india | Hindustan Times
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9/11 could have been avoided: Benazir

The attacks on the World Trade Centre would not have taken place had PPP been in power, Benazir Bhutto tells in an interview to Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2006 18:13 IST
Vijay Dutt

Speculation is rife about what Pervez Musharraf will do since the US envoy to Pakistan said Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif should be allowed to return to their homeland. Vijay Dutt asked Benazir Bhutto about the implications.

Is the US ambassador’s saying that you and Nawaz Sharif be allowed back in Pakistan an indication of official US thinking?

If the US ambassador was correctly quoted in the media that the exiled prime ministers be freely allowed back in Pakistan, it is a positive and welcome statement.

The US is the world’s strongest democracy. President Bush has spoken of supporting democracy in different parts of the world.

Those close to General Musharraf claim he is a close ally of the world community and the principle of democracy will not be applied to Pakistan. Therefore the statement of the ambassador, if correct, reflects the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan.

Pakistan needs to go forward re gionally in relations with India as well as in dealing with those forces who are out to Talibanise Pakistan.

It needs to eliminate terrorism for its own survival and to protect its people from zealots who kill innocents in mosques, churches and temples.

The last thing it needs is more of the last five years which have seen an army chief rule the country single-handedly and one who has faced two assassination attempts.

If you do return would Musharraf detain either of you? There are cases pending against you.

When Musharraf has pardoned the nuclear scientist AQ Khan, who sold nuclear technology on the international market according to his confession, he has no moral right to persecute me on unproven allegations that are a decade-old.

I plan to go back irrespective of what Musharraf does. When I was banned from contesting the last elections I did not go back for several reasons. Those elections were too close to 9/11 and Musharraf kept claiming he would not stop my party from forming the government if we won a majority.

Well, we did win a majority but Musharraf postponed the parliament and factionalised my party.

My party knows I made sacrifices for it. This time my party wants me back with one voice.

Is there any understanding between you and Sharif about the future of the prime ministership ?

It is premature to talk about it at this stage. Our first concern is to end the military’s involvement in politics. In the Charter of Democracy, we have agreed to recognise the right of a political party to form government and not be chased out of of fice before completing its term.

Has Musharraf or his people made any tentative move to establish contact with you for a formula to resolve the deadlock?

We read in the press that Musharraf and his aides are to contact me for a political solution and then we read that Musharraf has changed his mind. I personally doubt that Musharraf or those around him would want an understanding with my party.

What he says is similar to the Pakistan Peoples Party platform, but on the ground the situation is different.

Pakistan is a critical country and the stakes are high for those around Musharraf who allowed Osama bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora, allowed the Taliban to regroup as well as forced AQ Khan to fall on his sword to save others. It seems a contradiction in terms to think such elements would allow the PPP back to power if they can help it.

Don’t forget that PPP was overthrown twice to set the stage for the war against terrorism. After its first overthrow, Pakistan was on the brink of being declared a terrorist state in 1993.

After the PPP’s second overthrow the attacks of 9/11 took place. If the PPP had been in power, Al-Qaeda would never have established camps in Afghanistan, the attacks on the World Trade Centre would not have taken place, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would not have occur red and Muslims everywhere would not be under siege because extremists exploit the message of Islam.

Those who want a clash of civilisations cannot accept the PPP. They fear my popularity with the people.

Do you apprehend that if Musharraf comes under extreme pressure to give way to you, he might venture into some sort of small-scale skirmish with India.

It is said that external threats help divert attention from the inter nal problems and that whenever Pakistan has had a military dictatorship there has been a skirmish or a conflict. I hope better sense prevails this time.

Even though Musharraf and I are on different sides of the political spectrum in Pakistan, I am glad to see that he has adopted — at least overtly — the PPP policy enunciated at Simla for good relations between India and Pakistan.

Of course I remain sceptical of the ability of a military dictatorship to build peace due to inherent historical reasons.