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Bhutto rejected US advice to hire Pak security firms: NYT

The US officials had asked Benazir Bhutto to hire Pakistani private security companies, reports NYT.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, New York
UPDATED ON JAN 02, 2008 02:49 PM IST

The US officials had asked Benazir Bhutto to hire Pakistani private security companies instead of foreign firms for protection in the wake of the threat to her life, but the former prime minister and her husband rejected the advice.

Diplomats at the US embassy in Islamabad including Ambassador Anne WPatterson were in daily contact with officials from Bhutto's party, the New York Times said quoting a senior State Department official.

The Americans were passing along information and specific advice on private security contractors to hire, but Bhutto and her aides apparently spurned the counsel, the official said.

"Diplomats and security experts at the American Embassy, for example, discouraged Ms Bhutto from hiring American or British private security firms, fearing that a Western guard detail would draw too much attention to her and become a target," the paper said.

"Security officers at the embassy instead recommended the names of half a dozen Pakistani security companies that the United States and other Western countries had used to protect their personnel," the paper said quoting the official.

"The local companies employed guards who spoke the language and knew the landscape," the official said. But Bhutto and her husband rejected that suggestion apparently fearing that even the reputable Pakistani firms might be infiltrated by extremists, the official was quoted as saying.

The senior official also rejected the charge of Bhutto's husband that the Bush administration did not press President Pervez Musharraf's government hard enough to provide adequate security for her.

The American officials had passed on the constant flow of threat reports to Bhutto and her advisers even before she returned to Pakistan on October 18 from self-imposed exile, the paper said.

The US officials said each time Bhutto or her advisers requested the administration's help in getting increased security for her from the Musharraf government, her case was pressed by the Pakistani authorities by it or embassy officials.

However, the American intelligence officials said they never received a credible threat of an attack with a specific date, time or place, the newspaper said.

"Was she aware of the threat? Of course, she was aware," said a Pentagon official. "But I don't know how foolproof you can make any security when people are willing to kill themselves."

The official said: "US officials repeatedly met with and spoke with former Prime Minister Bhutto and members of her party including (Asif Ali) Zardari to discuss her security concerns.

"It was general advice, not what route to take or which rally to attend," the official added.

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