Pervez says he never 'disliked' Bhutto
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf claims he never disliked Benazir Bhutto but disagreed with her many a times.Updated: Jan 07, 2008 15:27 IST
Though the slain Benazir Bhutto used to "change the goalposts frequently" to suit her agenda, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf claims he never disliked her but disagreed with her many a times.
"The PPP leader used to change the goalposts frequently, depending on the ups and downs here in the country and on many occasions she annoyed me but on many other occasions she was positive," Musharraf said in an interview on CBS news' Sixty Minutes show.
"I think in such a situation it's not your personal like and dislikes. It's more for the nation that I thought one has to interact with her...No I wouldn't say I didn't like her -- well, I like or dislike, I didn't have any kind of personal friendship with her," Musharraf said in apparently his first personal observation on Bhutto.
He maintained that he had personally told Bhutto that she was under threat and that under the circumstances, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader should not have done the things she did on that fateful day in December.
Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October following a power-sharing deal between her and Pakistan President Musharraf finalised in Abu Dhabi in July.
"This is unfortunately a very baseless allegation," Musharraf said of the possibility that he had a hand in the killing of Bhutto. "Nobody has a right to blame anyone for killing anyone unless they have the proof," he said.
"Why would I be informing her about all these intelligence reports that we have against her, the threat to her? Why would I be doing that?... I can't prove it legally; I can't prove my innocence legally. But I can prove it only through what I stand for as a person," he said, adding "There's no real protection against a suicide bomber."
"We are not particularly looking for him (Laden) but we are operating against terrorists and Al -Qaeda and militant Taliban. And in the process, obviously, it is combined, maybe we are looking for him also. Yes. If he's here?" Musharraf said.
Stressing that the assassination of Bhutto came as an "utter shock", Musharraf said his relationship with the slain former premier was one of ups and downs.
"Up and down. It wasn't constant - I had asked her not to come before the election, and that we will arrange - then she could come after the election, which she agreed. She had agreed. But then she decided to come all of a sudden. Now that changed a little. It upset me a little," Musharraf said, making the point that he was not particularly happy that Bhutto did not stick with the agreements they made.
Musharraf said the PPP leader used to "change the goalposts frequently, depending on the ups and downs here in the country", and on many occasions she annoyed him but "on many other occasions she was positive."
"I think in such a situation it's not your personal like and dislikes. It's more for the nation that I thought one has to interact with her...No I wouldn't say I didn't like her -- well, I like or dislike, I didn't have any kind of personal friendship with her," Musharraf said.
Musharraf said that Bhutto made a mistake by going to the area where she was killed by ignoring warnings that "there's a likelihood of a suicide attempt".
"We asked her not to go. She insisted she will go. We stopped her. And we got such a poor - flak - we got flak from all over the world, from media, from Western media," the Pakistani President said.
On the day of the assassination, Musharraf maintained that Bhutto broke a basic rule of security in a crowded charged political rally -- to be particularly careful while leaving.
"She should have just gone and moved fast, gone and waved, yes. But if you're standing and -- because you are vulnerable. You're vulnerable and people are charging...And all the film that you see, people are charging. Now, when people are there by the hundreds swarming around you, this man (attacker) is one of them, who can check these people at that stage?" Musharraf asked.
"... But then the mistake was not that....Now is the point. Why did she stand outside the car? Why did she stand up in the hatch? Entirely. Who's to blame?" Musharraf asked.
"Only she...For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone. Nobody else. Responsibility is hers," he added.
On intelligence assessment that the Taliban had regrouped, Musharraf put the blame on Afghanistan.
"They hide and they get support... They regrouped because -- not under us. Because of Afghanistan. Okay?" Musharraf said.
Asked if the United States shares any of the blame in this, Musharraf replied: "Yes, of course. I mean everyone, the whole coalition should share the blame for not succeeding."