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The Benazir Bhutto dossier: ‘secret service was diverting US aid for fighting milita nts to rig the elections’ - Times Onlin e

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    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article3116090.ece The Times January 1, 2008 The Benazir Bhutto dossier: ‘secret service was diverting US
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2008
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      The Times
      January 1, 2008

      The Benazir Bhutto dossier: ‘secret service was diverting US aid for
      fighting militants to rig the elections’

      Jeremy Page in Naudero

      On the day she was assassinated, Benazir Bhutto was due to meet two
      senior American politicians to show them a confidential report alleging
      that Pakistan’s intelligence service was using US money to rig
      parliamentary elections, officials in her party said yesterday.

      The report was compiled by the former Prime Minister’s own contacts
      within the security services and alleged that the Inter-Services
      Intelligence agency was running the election operation from a safe house
      in the capital, Islamabad, they said. The operation’s aim was to
      undermine Ms Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and to ensure
      victory for the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party, which supports
      President Musharraf, in the elections scheduled for January 8.

      Patrick Kennedy, a Democratic congressman for Rhode Island, and Arlen
      Specter, a Republican member of the Senate sub-committe on foreign
      operations, have confirmed that they were planning to have dinner with
      Ms Bhutto on Thursday evening but were not available for comment yesterday.

      Sarfraz Ali Lashari, a senior PPP official who works in its election
      monitoring cell, told /The Times/ that he had helped to compile a
      200-page report on the Government’s efforts to rig the poll, which Ms
      Bhutto planned to give to the Americans and to the press the day she was

      “But there is another report relating to the ISI and she was going to
      discuss it with them,” said Mr Lashari, an envi-ronmental economist who
      taught at Cranfield University for several years.

      The second report, which Ms Bhutto did not plan to release to the media,
      alleged that the ISI was using some of the $10 billion (£5 billion) in
      US military aid that Pakistan has received since 2001 to run a covert
      election operation from a safe house in G5, a central district of
      Islamabad, he said.

      “The report was done by some people who we’ve got in the services. They
      directly dealt with Benazir Bhutto,” he continued, adding that Ms Bhutto
      was planning to share the contents of the report with the British
      Ambassador as well as the US lawmakers.

      Asif Ali Zardari, Ms Bhutto’s widower and the new co-chairman of the
      PPP, confirmed the existence of the report, its basic contents and Ms
      Bhutto’s plans to meet the US lawmakers last Thursday. Asked if such a
      report was in his possession, he said: “Something to that effect.” Asked
      if Ms Bhutto was planning to share its contents with the American
      legislators, he said: “I am not in a position to make an answer to
      that.” Asked if the report contained evidence that the ISI was using US
      funds to rig the elections, he said: “Possibly so.” He declined to give
      further details, but said the confidential report could have been one of
      several motives for killing Ms Bhutto, who died after a suicide-bomb and
      gun attack on an election rally near Islamabad. “It was a general
      combination of all of these things. The fact that she’s on the ground
      exposing everybody, I guess, would have been one reason. There are many
      views and many reasons one can think of for her assassination.”

      The allegation is likely to fuel the already intense speculation
      surrounding the death, which triggered nationwide riots and raised fears
      that President Musharraf could reimpose emergency rule and postpone the

      Electoral fraud is nothing new in Pakistan, which has been led by
      military rulers for more than half of its 60-year history, and whose
      politics is dominated by feudal and tribal loyalties. In 1996 a former
      army chief called Mirza Aslam Baig alleged in court that he had been
      aware of a secret ISI political cell that distributed funds to antiPPP
      candidates in the run-up to the 1990-1991 elections.

      Ms Bhutto had often accused President Musharraf, who seized power in a
      coup in 1999, of rigging elections and there have been reports that
      foreign financial aid to Pakistan’s Central Election Commission was
      being used to fix the result of next month’s poll.

      However, the report that Ms Bhutto allegedly planned to share with the
      US politicians made the more serious allegation that the ISI was
      directly involved in rigging the coming parliamentary elections – and
      was using American money to do it. The United States has given Pakistan
      at least $10 billion in military aid since President Musharraf agreed to
      back the War on Terror after the September 11 attacks.

      The money was supposed to be used to help Pakistan’s armed forces to
      fight al-Qaeda and Taleban militants sheltering in northwestern tribal
      areas near the porous border with Afghan-istan. But there has been
      almost no accounting for the funds, most of which have been transferred
      in cash directly to the Defence Ministry, and critics of President
      Musharraf say that much has been diverted towards other aims, such as
      upgrading forces on the border with India, or into private pockets.

      This month the US Congress ordered the Government to withhold a portion
      of military aid to Pakistan until President Musharraf demonstrated
      progress in the campaign against the militants and in a transition
      towards civilian, democratic rule.

      Mr Lashari, the PPP official, said that Ms Bhutto wanted to share the
      report with them because she did not entirely trust the US Government,
      which still regards President Musharraf as a key ally in the War on
      Terror. “The idea was to discuss it with all the international
      stakeholders, mainly including Britain and the United States, but we
      didn’t want to share it with anyone who could use it against us,” he said.

      “It would be unwise to do anything that would annoy Musharraf. and the
      international stakeholders. Everything could collapse if the Army comes
      to know that there is something substantial against them. It’s dangerous
      to name people in Pakistan.” Pakistani media reports have alleged the
      existence of an ISI safe house used to rig the elections and identified
      Ijaz Hussain Shah, a retired general who heads the civilian Intelligence
      Bureau, as one of those involved.

      Mr Lashari also said that Ms Bhutto was planning to show the report with
      the British Ambassador, Robert Brin-kley. A spokesman for the British
      Embassy denied any knowledge of the report. The ISI does not have a
      spokes-person, but a government official dismissed the allegations as
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