President linked Bhutto’s security to ‘her ties with him’Published: Sunday, 10 August, 2008, 01:15 AM Doha Time
ISLAMABAD: The US intelligence agencies taped assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s phone calls, prior to her arrival in Pakistan in October 2007, in a bid to “play under-the-table, cut-throat games more effectively”, a new book has revealed.
The Way of the World authored by a Pulitzer Prize winning US journalist Ron Suskind, is full of disclosures, with its fair portion about Musharraf-Benazir conversation including Musharraf’s quote “You should understand something, your security is based on the state of our relationship”, The News daily reported here yesterday.
Suskind writes that Bhutto’s case of returning to Pakistan was strongly backed by Condoleezza Rice-led State Department and equally opposed by Vice President Dick Cheney who considered Bhutto “complicated and unpredictable”.
The book said whenever Bhutto went harsh on Musharraf, the US ambassador in Islamabad advised her to “tone down any criticism of Musharraf”.
The author said Bhutto often regretted that Cheney never called Musharraf asking him to “behave” and instead kept her pressing for coming to terms with him.
As Musharraf, during telephonic conversations, refused entertaining her demand of revoking provision barring her becoming prime minister for third time, Bhutto said: “What you can give me (then)? May be some real reform in Election Commission?” Musharraf said: “She should not be hoping for much there (reforms), either”.
Referring to a conversation that took place three weeks before her return when she was meeting US lawmakers at Capitol Hill, including John Kerry, and State Department officials, the author writes: “Suddenly the couple (Bhutto-Zardari) turns. One of Bhutto’s aides is rushing towards them, saying he’s just gotten a call from one of Musharraf’s aides. The aide says that Musharraf can’t support Bhutto on a key demand - the repeal of the provision prohibiting a third term for the prime ministers - and he wants to talk to her Bhutto takes the call from Islamabad.
“The twice-elected provision is important to me,” she tells Musharraf. “If you’re retreating from that, what can you give me? May be some real reform in the election commission?”
He says she shouldn’t be hoping for much there, either. In their many calls, he’s been surprisingly cordial, often quite reasonable. But something has changed. His voice is harsh, almost mocking her. She asks if the US officials have had conversation with him that makes it clear that her safety is his responsibility.
“Yes, someone has called”, Musharraf says, and then laughs. “The Americans can call all they want with their suggestions about you and me, let them call,” he tells her. He finishes the call with a dose of fair warning: “You should understand something,” Musharraf says, finally to Bhutto. “Your security is based on the state of our relationship.”
She hangs up the phone feeling as though she might be sick.
Two days before she boards the plane, Bhutto is concerned. Her team has been frantically trying to beef up her security Mark Siegel and Larry Wallace, Bhutto’s American advisers, have been working the problem with Blackwater.
In September, representatives from the firm flew to meet Bhutto at her home in Dubai and laid out several security plans, each costing about $400,000 per month. They intended to work in conjunction with affiliated firms inside of Pakistan, because Musharraf had blocked visas from being issued to imported Americans security personnel for Bhutto. She turns the firm down.
She knows that the US has accepted Musharraf’s assurance that he had her security under control, but she does not trust him and sends an “in the event of my death” note, identifying various hard-line Islamist officials in his orbit who should be held responsible in the event that she is killed.
Regarding Musharraf’s call to Bhutto after assassination attempt on her arrival in Karachi, the author writes: “By the next day, Musharraf calls Bhutto at her estate near Karachi. She accepts his sympathies reluctantly.
“I’m not the enemy, Bibi.” She says little. She knows the lines are tapped.
It’s a new hand and she is not showing her card.” As Bhutto met Kerry in Washington, three weeks before going back to Pakistan, author writes: “The priority of this trip is to get Bhutto the security support she lacks. October 18 is only three weeks away. Kerry is swift off the mark: “This is a volatile situation you’re walking into, Benazir.”
The US, he says, is generally hesitant to ensure the protection of anyone who is not a designated leader, a provision to prevent US forces from becoming embroiled in the internal disputes of sovereign nations.
“Senator Kerry, I want Pakistan to provide me with the security I am entitled to under the laws of my country. I’d be grateful if you would talk to the Musharraf government and tell him the US expects he will fulfill those obligations.”
Kerry sighs. Of course, he, a senator, can’t conduct unilateral foreign policy. “Well, Benazir, I will certainly talk to the State Department about that point being made to Musharraf,” he says as forcefully as credulity will allow.
Her current fortune, however, are in the hands of a half-a-dozen people beyond her orbit: a tight circle of policy makers in senior posts at the State Department and in the Vice-President’s Office. All official contacts with Pakistan on Bhutto’s behalf must be channeled through this small group, overseen, in essence, by Cheney and Rice, a duo with a long history of internecine combat. Most of it dominated by the vice-president.” — Internews