Benazir says emergency meant to entrench Musharraf's dictatorship

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New Delhi, Nov 6 (UNI) Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto today described the emergency imposed by the country's military ruler Pervez Musharraf as martial law and said it could only be seen as a step to entrench his dictatorship.

''Until recently, he had made both public and private commitments to confidence building gestures that would move Pakistan forward in the transition to democracy. But at a time when he should be demonstrating to our country and the world his seriousness in allowing free, fair and transparent elections, he has declared martial law. This can only be seen as a step to entrench his dictatorship," she said in a comment to American television channel CNN.

''We must have elections under an independent caretaker government, and neutral administrative officials who have the confidence of all major political parties in the country. And these elections should be under the supervision of an autonomous and competent Election Commission," she said.

''It is time that Islamabad facilitates the operation of a rigorous election monitoring mechanism -- both domestic and international -- that can guarantee the sanctity of the ballot and allows election experts to conduct exit polls to insure that the counting reflects the voting," Ms Bhutto said.

According to her, it was time for reconciliation to truly begin that will allow for the mobilization of the moderate majority of Pakistan and the marginalization of militants, fanatics and extremists.

''But for that to happen, General Musharraf will need to revive the constitution by lifting martial law," Ms Bhutto said.

The opposition leader maintained that the rise of extremism and militancy in her country could not happen without support from elements within the current administration.

''My return to my country poses a threat to the forces of extremism that have thrived under a dictatorship. They want to stop the restoration of democracy at any price. They have exploited the poor, desperate, and powerless people and allowed extremists the right environment in which to flourish," she said.

Ms Bhutto said the present ruling party in Pakistan was an "artificial, political party created in the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)." She said its core support came from the political partners of late Pakistan president, Gen Zia ul Haq, ''who empowered the most radical elements within the Afghan Mujahedeen who went on to morph into al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Pakistani militants of today.'' Ms Bhutto said this party had called for a banning of outdoor rallies, demonstrations and caravans. ''They would thus suspend all activity that demonstrates to the people of Pakistan and to the people of the world which parties enjoy mass support amongst the people,''she said.

She said this was ''a suspicious prelude to what could be an overt attempt to rig the upcoming elections. All the people who believe in the process of democracy should reject this attempt to undermine public participation in the campaign and set the table for what I believe would simply be a fraudulent election.'' Ms Bhutto also expressed unhappiness over the fact that more than two weeks after the assassination attempt on her in Karachi on the day she returned home after years in exile, the police were yet to file her complaint.

''They filed their own report without taking statements from eyewitnesses on the truck targeted for the terrorist attack which resulted in the death of more than 158 of my supporters and security guards," she said.

She alleged that security for her had been reduced even as she was told that other assassination attempts were in the offing.


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