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Bhutto preparing to return to Pak despite threats to life

The exiled former premier says she will return to Pakistan despite assassination threats.

world Updated: Apr 10, 2007 12:50 IST

Exiled former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto has said that she is preparing to return to her country this year despite threats of arrests and assassination.

"As I prepare to return to an uncertain future in Pakistan in 2007, I fully understand the stakes not only for myself, and my country, but the entire world," she wrote in her revised autobiography Benazir Bhutto - Daughter of the East.

"I realise I can be arrested. I realise that like the assassination of Philippine Senator Benigno Aquino in Manila in August 1983, I can be gunned down on the airport tarmac when I land.

After all, Al-Qaeda has tried to kill me several times, why would we think they wouldn't try again as I return from exile to fight for the democratic elections they so detest?" Bhutto, who is also the chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party asked.

She hastened to add "But I do what I have to do, and am determined to return to fulfill my pledge to the people of Pakistan to stand by them in their democratic aspirations".

According to her, in the fall of 1993 her assassination was ordered and the "chosen assassin was a Pakistani with ties to the ISI during the Afghan Jihad.

"His name was Ramzi Yusef. He had participated in the first attack on the World Trade Centre in New York earlier that same year, on February 26.

"After the February bombings, Yusef escaped the United States and returned to Pakistan. Seven months later he was assigned my assassination. He attempted to kill me on two separate occasions during the election campaign of 1993."

"In September, accompanied by two colleagues, he placed a complex bomb, designed to be ignited by remote control, in the street in front of my house. He planned to detonate it while my car was coming out of my garage.

As he attempted to plant the apparatus, a passing police patrol stopped and asked him what he was doing.

"He said that he was looking for his keys which he had dropped in the street. Police were skeptical and told him to leave immediately.

Apparently Yusef injured himself later that night trying to dismantle the weapon and went to hospital for treatment. Hospital ledgers showed that he lost a finger, in an unexplained manner, that same night."

Undeterred, "Ramzi Yusef and his group set off again at the explicit instructions of his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his backers, to kill me.

Khalid Sheikh, as we now know, went on to become the 'CEO' of Al-Qaeda and is suspected of personally beheading Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal Bureau Chief (he is currently in US custody).

They planned to strike me down yet again, but this time the plot was even more complicated with a secondary political motive to turn elements of the PPP against each other.

"The plan, designed by Al-Qaeda and the intelligence agencies, was based on assassinating me and making it look like my brother was responsible. I was scheduled to appear at a huge campaign rally at Nishtar Park in Karachi.

Khalid Sheikh had arranged to have several sophisticated al-Qaeda weapons shipped to Ramzi Yusef from Peshawar that were to arrive by train on the day of the assassination.

The plot came unglued when the train was delayed in the city of Hyderabad and the weapons did not arrive until the rally was over.

According to Bhutto, when Ramzi Yusef was captured by her government in 1995, he had in his possession plans for hijacking US commercial aircraft and using them as weapons against buildings.

"Al-Qaeda had similar plans to hijack several commercial jets on the same day over the Pacific as a mass terrorist attack."

Emphasising that "Democracy in Pakistan is not just important for Pakistanis, it is important for the entire world," she said "in this age of the exploitation and radical interpretation of my beloved religion, we must always remember that democratic governments do not empower, protect and harbour terrorists.

A democratic Pakistan, free from the yolk of military dictatorship would cease to be the petri dish of the pandemic of international terrorism.

"So I plan my return from exile to lead yet another campaign. I pray that the democratic world will demand that Pervez Musharraf provides the standards of fair and free elections, allow all political personalities and parties to freely contest them; allow international observers to monitor the balloting and counting; and above all, abide by the outcome."

In the new chapter "Prime Minister and Beyond" she had added in the revised autobiography, Bhutto recalled that during her tenure as Prime Minister in the first term in February 1989, when she asserted authority over the ISI in May, bin Laden was asked by the ISI (with whom he had long and close relations) to help overthrow the democratic government and install a theocratic rule in Pakistan.

"Bin Laden committed the robust sum of 10 million dollars for the no-confidence move by attempting to buy out my parliamentary supporters".

The no-confidence motion brought by IJI with the support of the ISI and bin Laden failed by twelve votes on November one, 1989.

"But it set the pattern of confrontation and manipulation with an ISI/foreign extremist alliance that would plague Pakistan and the entire world for decades to come."

Bhutto wrote "around this time I received a report that a Saudi aeroplane had landed in Pakistan loaded with mango boxes.

Since Saudi Arabia grows dates and not mangoes, we were quite suspicious. The civilian intelligence found that the boxes did not contain mangoes but rather money. I thought I had the support of the Saudi King Fahd.

When I met him, he praised my father and recounted how he tried to save my father's life.

He said that my father's murder was "unjust" that he was like a brother to my father and looked upon me as his own daughter.

I therefore sent my Minister of Law to Saudi Arabia to ask the King, "whether he was angry with his daughter and thus was sending Saudi money into Pakistan to fund her opponents".

The King assured my envoy the money transfer had nothing to do with the government, mentioning that, "some people were infected by the Afghan 'jihad' and were sending their private money. One of the King's advisers identified the source of the money as Osama bin Laden."

First Published: Apr 10, 2007 12:42 IST