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banyon
12-30-2007, 10:10 AM
Bhutto’s Son and Husband to Lead Party

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By JANE PERLEZ
Published: December 30, 2007

LAHORE, Pakistan — Three days after the death of Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistan People’s Party on Sunday chose her 19-year-old son, Bilawal, and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, as co-leaders of the party, the biggest and most potent in Pakistan.

During a meeting of the party executive in Naudero in the western province of Sindh, Ms. Bhutto’s will was read, and the new political line up, which follows the dynastic tradition started with her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the party founder, follows her wishes, party officials said.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a tall and composed Oxford student, took the center chair at the news conference at the Bhutto family enclave as he read the announcement that the party would contest the coming election.

“The long and historic struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigor,” he said. “My mother always said democracy was the best revenge.”

Ms. Bhutto’s husband, Mr. Zardari, said the party had passed a resolution that would be sent to the United Nations calling for an international inquiry into the circumstances of her death. He specified that the British government should help in the inquiry. He added the government did not accept the inquiries being conducted by the government of President Pervez Musharraf.

The decision to contest the election is seen as a pragmatic move to attract the massive sympathy vote that the party expects in the wake of Ms. Bhutto’s assassination. Some analysts said they believed the party could top the government party’s vote, and command a new parliament.

But the government indicated Sunday that the election, scheduled for Jan. 8, would likely be delayed, perhaps as much as four months, leaving vast uncertainties over the volatile political scene here.

The news conference was an emotional affair, dominated by Mr. Zardari, who spoke in Urdu, often in a voice of near rage. Mr. Zardari, known as Mr. Ten Percent during his reign as Minister for Investment during Ms. Bhutto’s second term as Prime Minister, was jailed in Pakistan for eight years on corruption charges. Mr. Zardari still faces corruption charges in Switzerland, his lawyer there said earlier this week.

On Sunday, he said the coming election would be a “war against the people in the government of Pakistan now.” It was not a war against the army, he added.

He was particularly tough on President Pervez Musharraf, calling his political party, a faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, the “Qatil” League.The word “Qatil” in Urdu means murderer.

When reporters began directing questions at his son, Mr. Zardari stepped in saying that Bilawal was still of a “tender” age, and that one question was enough. In answer to that question, Mr. Bhutto Zardari said he would return to run the party full time once he had completed his studies at Oxford.

Mr. Zardari urged the main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, who heads a faction of the Pakistan Muslim League and promised to boycott the election, to contest the election, too. Mr. Sharif is likely to follow the recommendation.

For the last several days, Mr. Sharif has gone out of his way to show conciliation towards the Bhutto clan, showing up at the hospital as soon as she was pronounced dead and then following up with a visit to her family compound to offer prayers after her burial.

Mr. Sharif said that together his party and the Pakistan Peoples Party party can make common cause against the Musharraf government.

As pressure increased on Pakistan to accept an international inquiry into Ms. Bhutto’s death, the team of doctors who frantically tried to revive her Thursday said they had requested an autopsy but were rebuffed by the chief of police in Rawalpindi, according to a member of the board of the hospital where she was treated.

The question of an autopsy has become central to the circumstances of Ms. Bhutto’s death because of conflicting versions put forward by the Pakistani government of how she died.

On the night Ms. Bhutto died, an unnamed Interior Ministry spokesman was quoted by the official Pakistani news agency as saying that the former prime minister had died of a “bullet wound in the neck by a suicide bomber.”

The next day, Javed Iqbal Cheema, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said at a news conference that Ms. Bhutto had died of a wound suffered when she hit her head on a lever attached to the sunroof of the vehicle that was carrying her through a crowd after a political rally. “Three shots were fired, but they missed her,” Mr. Cheema said. “Then there was an explosion.”

The explanation was greeted with disbelief by Ms. Bhutto’s supporters, ordinary Pakistanis and medical experts outside the government.

Pakistani and Western security experts said they believed the government’s insistence that Ms. Bhutto was not killed by a bullet was designed to deflect attention from the lack of government security around her vehicle as she left the park in the city where the Pakistani Army keeps its headquarters, and where the powerful Inter Services Intelligence agency has a strong presence, Pakistani and Western security experts said.

Dr. Mohammad Mussadiq Khan, the principal professor of surgery at the hospital, said on the night of her death that Ms. Bhutto had died of a bullet wound, according to the account of Athar Minallah, the board member of the Rawalpindi General Hospital.

Mr. Minallah released the medical report written by Dr. Khan and six other doctors together with an open letter supporting the doctors in their call for an autopsy.

The report did not mention a bullet because the actual cause of the head injury was left to the autopsy required under Pakistani law when a person dies under suspicious or criminal circumstances, Mr. Minallah said.

The report said the doctors had tried for 41 minutes to revive her. It said “the patient was pulseless and was not breathing” when she arrived at the hospital.

“A wound was present on the right temporoparietal region through which blood was trickling down, and whitish material which looked like brain matter was visible in the wound,” it said.

Although Mr. Cheema, the government spokesman, insisted that Ms. Bhutto did not die of a bullet wound, he also insisted that Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani militant linked to Al Qaeda, was responsible for her death. In short, his contention at his briefings was this: a gunman fired, but missed; a suicide bomber from Mr. Mehsud’s group then blew himself up, and as Ms. Bhutto ducked from the attack, she hit her head on a lever on the sunroof of her car.

An account of Ms. Bhutto’s death that did not involve a gunshot wound was the optimal explanation for the government, said Bruce Riedel, an expert on Pakistan at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and a former member of the National Security Council in the Clinton administration.

“If there is a gunshot wound the security was abysmal,” Ms. Riedel said. The government did not want to be exposed on its careless security approach, he said.

As the government’s explanation raised questions, new images of the gunman, dressed in a sleeveless black waistcoat and wearing rimless sunglasses, were splashed across the front pages of Pakistan’s Sunday papers.

The man with the gun who is seen opening fire on Ms. Bhutto just a few meters from her wore a short haircut similar to those of plainclothes intelligence officials. He is seen standing in front of a man whose head is covered in a shawl in the style of Pashtun men from the Pakistani tribal areas where Al Qaeda has strongholds. He is described in the newspaper, Dawn, as the suicide bomber who detonated a bomb after the shots were fired.

In the open letter that Mr. Minallah distributed along with the medical report to the Pakistani news media and to The New York Times, Mr. Minallah suggested the doctors felt they were being pressured by the government to back the theory that she had died by hitting her head on the lever of the car’s sunroof.

But the doctors had stressed to him that “without an autopsy it is not at all possible to determine as to what had caused the injury,” Mr. Minallah wrote in his open letter.

The chief of police in Rawalpindi, Aziz Saud, “did not agree” to the autopsy request by the doctors, Mr. Minallah added.


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/30/world/asia/30cnd-pakistan.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&hp&oref=slogin

Cochise
12-30-2007, 10:13 AM
I'm not sure I'd want to be at the top of the 'next to be whacked' list, but good for them I suppose...

Thig Lyfe
12-30-2007, 10:14 AM
He's like the LeBron James of Pakistani politics