“Peace is impossible under Musharraf,” says Nawaz Sharif.
“Assassination Poses Dilemma for US,” by Matthew Lee for AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Bush administration scrambled Thursday with the implications of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination after investing significant diplomatic capital in promoting reconciliation between her and President Pervez Musharraf.
President Bush, speaking briefly to reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanded that those responsible for the killing be brought to justice and the White House said there needs to be a thorough investigation.
“The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy,” said Bush, who looked tense and took no questions. He expressed his deepest condolences to Bhutto’s family and to the families of others slain in the attack and to all the people of Pakistan.
His appearance came as U.S. officials here struggled to cope with the immense policy implications of the assassination on relations with a nuclear-armed country that has received billions of dollars in American financial assistance and is an ally in the war on terrorism. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Bush planned to speak with Musharraf as soon as it could be arranged Thursday.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said it was too soon to say who was responsible.
“I’m aware that al-Qaida may have claimed responsibility,” Stanzel said. “I’m aware of news reports of that. But I don’t have any specifics for you on that.” He did say, “Whoever perpetrated this attack is an enemy of democracy and has used a tactic that al-Qaida is very familiar with, and that is suicide bombing and the taking of innocent life to try to disrupt the democratic process.”
In his comments in Crawford, Bush said, “Mrs. Bhutto served her nation twice as prime minister and she knew that her return to Pakistan earlier this year put her life at risk, yet she refused to allow assassins to dictate the course of her country.”
“We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against the forces of terror and extremism. We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto’s memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life,” he said….
That democratic process is on the ropes: “Pakistan’s Sharif Says His Party Will Boycott Ballot,” by Khalid Qayum for Bloomberg:
Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) — Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said his party will boycott national elections next month after Benazir Bhutto was killed today, and he called on President Pervez Musharraf to quit as the nation’s leader.
“We have decided to boycott elections in honor of Ms. Bhutto,” Sharif told reporters in Islamabad this evening. “Under the present circumstances and under Musharraf, neither is campaigning possible nor is a free election.”
Sharif called for a nationwide strike tomorrow to protest against Bhutto’s killing.
“Peace is impossible under Musharraf,” he said. “Pakistan’s unity is impossible under Musharraf. He is the root cause of all problems.”