Bhutto: Security has collapsed

Pakistan’s ex-premier says authorities have turned a ‘blind eye’ to armed groups.

Editor’s note: This interview originally aired on November 3, 2007, less than two months before her assassination.

Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister, has told Al Jazeera security in her country has “collapsed” and accused the authorities of turning a “blind eye” to armed groups in several regions.

“Not only are our tribal areas out of our control, but even the beautiful valley of Swat is now under takeover by Islamists,” Bhutto said on Al Jazeera’s Frost Over the World programme on Friday.

She said that “internal security has totally collapsed in Pakistan” and that this could not be the case “without there being some blind eye if not collusion being turned to the rise of the militants and militancy”. 

Her comments to Al Jazeera came as clashes between government troops and pro-Taliban fighters in Pakistan prompted fears that Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, would impose martial law.

More than 100 people are said to have been killed in fighting in the Swat valley over the last week.Pakistani authorities on Friday denied rumours that martial law had been imposed amid intense fighting between armed groups and government troops in Pakistan’s northwest.

Fighters in the region showed journalists 48 men they described as government troops who had surrendered during the fighting.

The men were later said to have been released, though the Pakistani government did not confirm the men had been captured.

Meanwhile, Pakistani forces are also battling pro-Taliban fighters in North Waziristan, a tribal region on the border with Afghanistan, where members of al-Qaeda are believed to be sheltering.

Legal challenge

Political tensions in Pakistan have also mounted as opponents are challenging Musharraf’s re-election as president in the supreme court.

Opposition parties boycotted the election on October 6, meaning the general easily won an overwhelming majority of the votes cast by federal and provincial politicians.

But Bhutto reiterated that her Pakistans People’s Party would accept whatever ruling the supreme court arrived at.

“We are going to back the supreme court in whatever judgment it decides to give on the issue of General Musharraf’s legality,” she told Al Jazeera.

The supreme court is due to deliver its verdict before Musharraf’s current term expires on November 15.

Karachi bombing

Al Jazeera, Bhutto also condemned the bombing of her homecoming procession in October as a “horrific incident in which 158 innocent young men, a woman and a baby lost their lives”.

She reiterated her call for international help with an investigation into the blast that struck her, saying that the UK’s Scotland Yard or the FBI in the US could help to catch “the financers and the organisers” of the bombing.

The October 18 attack on Bhutto’s convoy, as she travelled through the streets of Karachi, came just hours after the former prime minster returned to Pakistan from eight years of self-imposed exile.

Bhutto confirmed that she had sent a letter to Musharraf in which she “named three individuals” who she suspected “to stop the restoration of democracy” and who she thought might be involved in any attempt on her life.

Bhutto’s family had remained in Dubai while she returned to Pakistan. She said her children had been asleep at the time of the blasts, “and in the morning they got text messages from their friends saying: ‘We hope your mother is well.'”

She said her family supported her. “They understand that I’m doing this for their country and for all the people of Pakistan,” she said.

Source: Al Jazeera