Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers
December 31, 2007
NAUDERO, Pakistan – The day she was assassinated last Thursday, Benazir Bhutto had planned to reveal new evidence alleging the involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies in rigging the country’s upcoming elections, an aide said Monday.
Bhutto had been due to meet U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., to hand over a report charging that the military Inter-Services Intelligence agency was planning to fix the polls in the favor of President Pervez Musharraf.
Safraz Khan Lashari, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party election monitoring unit, said the report was “very sensitive” and that the party wanted to initially share it with trusted American politicians rather than the Bush administration, which is seen here as strongly backing Musharraf.
“It was compiled from sources within the (intelligence) services who were working directly with Benazir Bhutto,” Lashari said, speaking Monday at Bhutto’s house in her ancestral village of Naudero, where her husband and children continued to mourn her death.
The ISI had no official comment. However, an agency official, speaking only on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject, dismissed the allegations as “a lot of talk but not much substance.”
Musharraf has been highly critical of those who allege that his regime is involved in electoral manipulation. “Now when they lose, they’ll have a good rationale: that it is all rigged, it is all fraud,” he said in November. “In Pakistan, the loser always cries.”
According to Lashari, the document includes information on a “safe house” allegedly being run by the ISI in a central neighborhood of Islamabad, the alleged headquarters of the rigging operation.
It names as the head of the unit a brigadier general recently retired from the ISI, who was secretly assigned to run the rigging operation, Lashari said. It charges that he was working in tandem with the head of a civilian intelligence agency. Before her return to Pakistan, Bhutto, in a letter to Musharraf, had named the intelligence official as one of the men she accused of plotting to kill her.
Lashari said the report claimed that U.S. aid money was being used to fix the elections. Ballots stamped in favor of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, which supports Musharraf, were to be produced by the intelligence agencies in about 100 parliamentary constituencies.
“They diverted money from aid activities. We had evidence of where they were spending the money,” Lashari said.
Lashari, who formerly taught environmental economics at Britain’s Cranfield University, said the effort was directed at constituencies where the result was likely to be decided by a small margin, so it wouldn’t be obvious.
Bhutto was due to meet Specter and Kennedy after dinner last Thursday. She was shot as she left an election rally in Rawalpindi early that evening. Pakistan’s government claims instead that she was thrown against the lever of her car’s sunroof, fracturing her skull.
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