Musharraf may put off polls: Bhutto
Sunday, July 15, 2007
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London: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto apprehended that President Pervez Musharraf might use the Lal Masjid incident as a pretext to postpone elections.
The chief of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) warned that if it happened the consequences would be ''very negative'' for the country.
The Pakistan Army stormed the Lal Masjid in central Islamabad on July 10 to flush out militants holed up inside it after talks with the mosque's radical deputy head Abdul Rashid Ghazi failed to resolve the week-long stand-off.
The Army operation left Ghazi and 90 other militants dead.
''People say the Red Mosque issue was propped up as a pretext to postpone the elections. If that happens, the consequences will be very negative for Pakistan,'' said Bhutto.
''Many people in Pakistan think that the militants were first propped up by some forces and then sacrificed by them. But I don't want to be cynical.
''I would rather say the regime had to act as there was no alternative left because we are talking about people who had admitted having suicide bombers in their midst,'' she said.
Bhutto said that some policemen had also been kidnapped by militants, but government did not file a case.
''The Musharraf government bent over backwards to please the militants. And even till the last minute, members of the Cabinet were trying to give safe passage to those who had killed members of the armed forces and law enforcement.
''Now it is the tip of the iceberg and it is to be seen whether the government will sustain the hardline policy towards militants and militancy or start bending over backwards to make amends and try to pacify them.''
Calling for a post-mortem into the Red Mosque incident, self-exiled Bhutto sought to know how on a government land ''two so-called political madrassas were built which were in fact the military headquarters of militant groups that seemed to have ties with al-Qaida''.
Bhutto was apparently referring to the madrassas run by the Lal Masjid - Jamia Hafsa, the girls' madrassa in the mosque's premises, and nearby Jamia Faridia for boys.
The radical students of these madrassas along with the mosque's clerics have indulged in moral policing in Islamabad and demanded imposition of Sharia law.
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