Exiled former leader of Pakistan visits Rockford

Exiled former leader of Pakistan visits Rockford

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

“Terrorism and fanaticism will not succeed unless we fall into its trap,” said the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, who delivered a speech to an overflow audience of about 600 in Rockford College’s Maddox Theater on Thursday evening, Sept. 19.

The former prime minister called the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, “heretics and hypocrites,” and said that we live in a “dangerous time” in which “terrorism has replaced communism as a threat.” She said the greatest fears of the terrorists are the spread of democracy and social equality—the very issues for which Bhutto claims she was the target of an assassination attempt.

Calling the United States the “symbol of what can be” and “the ultimate beacon for hope and freedom,” Bhutto stated that there has also been terrorism in Pakistan and inferred that Islamic fanatics and extremists were responsible for such terrorist acts in her country of exile.

She explained that Islam is a religion that is “committed to tolerance and equality” and that “Islam develops democracy” through “consultation, consensus, and individuality.” Bhutto also emphasized the similarities between the predominantly Islamic beliefs of the Middle East, northern Africa, and parts of Asia, and the predominantly Judeo-Christian beliefs of the West. However, she states that the terrorists’ view is one of Islam against the West in a clash of ideas and ideals that has resulted in the suffering of the image of Islam, worldwide.

Bhutto also stated that Cold War in Afghanistan in the 1970s and ’80s, between the United States and the former communist Soviet Union, “sowed the seeds” for the terrorism of today because the United States “ignored Afghanistan after the fall of communism.” Bhutto wants “more commitment to places” of instability on the part of the United States, with the goal of our foreign policies being to promote “stability and democratic values.”

In her speech, Bhutto called the current Pakistani government of Pervez Musharraf a “brutal military dictatorship” that has denied her a place on the ballot in the Oct. 10, 2002 election. She said the military is responsible for her exile.

Before going into exile, Bhutto says she fought charges of corruption for about three years because “judges are afraid of the extremists.” Bhutto said the legal battles resulted in her own exile. Bhutto also reports that her husband has been imprisoned, and that she has been isolated from her young children.

Explaining that “democracy is my mission,” Bhutto is pleading for the United States to support free and open elections, “open to all parties and all candidates.” She said the current military regime has prevented her from being placed on the ballot. Given the war on terrorism and the Bush administration’s support for current Pakistani government, the prospects for her pleads being answered appear remote.

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