Imran holds Musharraf responsible for Benazir's death

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Mumbai, Dec 28 (UNI) Holding Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf responsible for assassination of Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, legendary cricketer turned politician Imran Khan today asked him to step down to arrest the downward spiral in which the country finds itself.

''There seems to be no end to the terrorist threats in Pakistan. A change in strategy to fight terrorism is the need of the hour and only a genuine democratic government is in a position to do so.

Under President Musharraf's regime, which participated in the war on terror led by the US, terrorist groups have morphed all over Pakistan and the country's existence has come under threat,'' he told a press conference at Godrej House, in suburban Mumbai here.

''Anyone can be killed in Pakistan and blame Al Qaeda for it. If Bhutto was killed by Al Qaeda because of her perceived closeness to President Musharraf and the US, why was there a suicide attack at Nawaz Sharif's rally in which five persons lost their lives. Nawaz is not seen as an American ally,'' he noted.

He said the war on terror cannot be won by losing the battle of winning hearts and minds of the people. ''Terrorism can be defeated with people's support,'' he pointed out.

Demanding an independent inquiry into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Imran said there can be no elections under the present circumstances. ''All of us, including Benazir, knew that the January 8 polls were being rigged. My party Tehereek-e-Insaaf, which is part of the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) coalition, has already boycotted the elections,'' he added.

He said he held President Musharraf responsible for Benazir's death because when she arrived in October after eight years of self-imposed exile, her return was perceived to be an American backed plan and hence everybody knew she was under threat.

''President Musharraf himself has survived two suicide attempts.

He moves around the country amid unprecedented security comprising a convoy of 70 vehicles, helicopters hovering over the skies and clear roads. After the first attempt on her life in Karachi soon after her arrival, Benazir too should have been provided similar security like President Musharraf. Similarly, no proper inquiry was conducted into her complaint about her fears that she may be killed. Now, the government is talking about a judicial inquiry into her death. But, there is no independent judiciary in Pakistan,'' he pointed out.

Imran demanded that a caretaker government of consensus, to which all political parties agree, should be formed. The judiciary should be reinstated and only then free and fair elections would be possible.

''Soon after I return to Pakistan tomorrow, I will consult the APDM leaders to discuss the present scenario in the country and how to find a way for restoration of democracy,'' he said and added that he was prepared to talk to all political leaders barring President Musharraf.

''President Musharraf is the problem and not solution to Pakistan's problems,'' he charged.

He described the present phase in which Pakistan finds itself as a painful transition from dictatorship to democracy. He said he saw a bright future for a democratic Pakistan.

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