Be nice to me for protection: Musharraf told Benazir


London : “I’ll only protect you if you’re nice to me,” Pakistan’s former premier Benazir Bhutto was told by the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf when she asked for more security, a close aide of the slain leader has revealed, according to the Sunday Times.

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Bhutto was eventually killed in a gun and suicide attack Dec 27, 2007 during an election rally in Rawalpindi.

“He (Musharraf) told her, ‘I warned you not to come back until after the elections’ and threatened her, ‘I’ll only protect you if you’re nice to me’,” said Husain Haqqani, a former Bhutto aide, who is Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington.

According the Sunday Times report, instead of stepping up Bhutto’s security, it was reduced. She was even told not to travel in vehicles with tinted windows, as this was against the law of the local government.

The Sunday Times correspondent said he was with Bhutto Oct 17, 2007, when she survived an another assassination bid.

“Bhutto had no doubt who was behind it. She e-mailed Mark Siegel Oct 26, two months before her assassination: ‘Nothing will god-willing happen. Just wanted you to know if it does, I will hold Musharraf responsible.”

The report said that Bhutto was called back to Pakistan from her exile as part of an international deal and after her assassination, “all traces of evidence were immediately swept away”.

She (Bhutto) appealed to the American and British officials who had helped negotiate her return, the correspondent said.

“I called everyone,” said Haqqani. “I even got the US ambassador in Pakistan, Anne Patterson, to visit her. It did not go well.”

Bhutto’s cousin and confidant Tariq Islam said: “Patterson wasn’t nice to her. She harped on, ‘You must not talk against Musharraf’. The Americans never trusted her.”

The report said, Musharraf government appeared to be in panic. Within an hour of the attack the scene had been washed down with high-pressure hoses, wiping out almost all the evidence.

Saud Aziz, the then chief of Rawalpindi police, said he issued these orders after receiving a phone call from a close associate of Musharraf. The interior ministry said they were worried about “vultures picking up body parts”.

The Times correspondent observed, “This was in stark contrast to what had happened after two assassination attempts on Musharraf in the same city, when the area had been sealed off for weeks.”