Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Relevant information regarding Bhutto hit

Bhutto sought to tar security services

Naudero, Pakistan — On the day she was assassinated, Benazir Bhutto had planned to reveal damning new allegations of the involvement of Pakistan's intelligence agencies in rigging the country's coming elections.

She was due to meet two visiting U.S. politicians to hand over a report compiled by her Pakistan Peoples Party. The document detailed an operation the party said was run by the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence agency to fix the polls in the favour of President Pervez Musharraf.

The report was "very sensitive," according to Sarfraz Khan Lashari, a member of the PPP election monitoring group, and the party wanted to initially share it with trusted U.S. politicians rather than the country's administration, which has strongly backed Mr. Musharraf.

"It was compiled from sources within the [intelligence] services who were working directly with Benazir Bhutto," Mr. Lashari said yesterday, speaking at Ms. Bhutto's house in her ancestral village of Naudero, where her husband and children continued to mourn her death.

Last Thursday, the day she was killed, the two-time former prime minister was due to meet Arlen Specter, a Republican senator, and Patrick Kenď nedy, a Democrat congressman.ď She was assassinated as she left an election rally in Rawalpindi early that evening. It is unclear whether the two U.S. lawmakers had any indication that they were to be provided with the report.

After Ms. Bhutto's death, Mr. Specter told reporters: "Our foreign policy had relied on her presence as a stabilizing force.

"I knew her personally. ¡K She was, as you know, glamorous, beautiful smart," he said. "Her loss is a setback. But you have to face what is. And now, without her, we have to regroup."

The document included information on a "safe house" being run by the ISI in a central neighbourhood of Islamabad called G-5, which was the alleged headquarters of the rigging operation.

It named a recently retired army brigadier who served in the ISI as the head of the unit. It said that he was working in tandem with the chief of a civilian intelligence agency, a man Ms. Bhutto had previously said was plotting to kill her.

The report said that U.S. aid funds were being used for the election-fixing. Ballot papers, stamped in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, which supports Mr. Musharraf, were to be produced by the intelligence agencies in around 100 constituencies.

"They diverted money from aid activities. We had evidence of where they were spending the money," Mr. Lashari said.

An ISI spokesman could not be reached for comment. However, a source within the agency dismissed the allegations as "a lot of talk but not much substance."

The Peoples Party is still deciding whether to make the report public and so the allegations cannot be investigated. Independent observers from non-governmental organizations have pointed to a series of abuses in the campaigning period, such as the use of state resources by the pro-Musharraf parties.

Although intelligence agencies have a long history of involvement in Pakistan's electoral politics, there had not been detailed allegations of their intervention in this campaign until now. In the last election in 2002, it has been widely charged that the ISI used blackmail tactics to get candidates to switch parties to the side that backed Mr. Musharraf.

In the 1990 election campaign, the then chief of the ISI, Mirza Aslam Beg, gave out the equivalent of $2-million to the opponents of the Peoples Party, he has admitted in court. This time, Mr. Lashari said, the ISI "must be spending more than ten times as much."

Mr. Lashari, who used to teach environmental economics at Britain's Cranfield University, said that the current effort was directed at constituencies where the result was likely to be decided by a small margin, so it would not be obvious.

Mr. Musharraf has been highly critical of those who allege that his regime is involved in electoral manipulation. "Now when they lose, they'll have a good rationale, that it is all rigged, it is all fraud," he said last month. "In Pakistan, the loser always cries."

Original article posted here.

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