NEW YORK: The US intelligence agencies taped Benazir Bhutto’s phone calls, prior to her arrival in Pakistan, in a bid to “play under-the-table, cut-throat games more effectively”, a new book has revealed.
“The Way of the World” authored by a Pulitzer Prize winning US journalist Ron Suskind, is full of disclosures, with its fair portion about Musharraf-Benazir conversation including Musharraf’s quote “You should understand something, your security is based on the state of our relationship”.
Suskind writes that Benazir Bhutto’s case of returning to Pakistan was strongly backed by Condoleezza Rice-led State Department and equally opposed by Vice President Dick Cheney who considered Bhutto “complicated and unpredictable”.
The book said whenever Benazir Bhutto went harsh on Musharraf, the US ambassador in Islamabad advised her to “tone down any criticism of Musharraf”. The author said Bhutto often regretted that Vice President Cheney never called Musharraf asking him to “behave” and instead kept her pressing for coming to terms with him.
As Musharraf, during telephonic conversations, refused entertaining her demand of revoking provision barring her becoming PM for third time, Bhutto said: “What you can give me (then)? May be some real reform in election commission”.
Musharraf said: “She should not be hoping for much there (reforms), either”. The book revealed US intelligence once intercepted Bhutto’s conversation with her son, Bilawal. “They’ve been listening to her calls for months, including an earlier call she made to her son.”
In that call, the book said, she told him (Bilawal) about the secret bank accounts that hold the family’s fortunes that investigators have long suspected are ill-gotten. Therefore when Bhutto once floated the idea of freezing foreign accounts of “key people around Musharraf”, a US official let her understand that the United States could, if need be, “constrain her assets” just as she was now suggesting they do to Musharraf.
According to the author, Bhutto’s representative started approaching the State Department, in spring 2006 to work out a plan for her return, but White House began taking her seriously after the widespread demonstrations in backdrop sacking of Chief Justice. And this plan was aimed to shore up an embattled Musharraf, a single-issue ally.
Bhutto would consider, the book said, the lawyers and especially Iftikhar Chaudhry were a “problem” and that they owned the “high ground of principle. While she was sprouting democratic rhetoric, the book said, she was caught in the deal room — a position in which she came close to mirroring the “say one thing but do another” behavior of the United States.
The book also discloses details of Bhutto’s meeting with US Senator John Kerry requesting for her security and his reply that “United States is generally hesitant to ensure the protection of anyone who is not a designated leader”.
Source: The News,
Saturday, August 09, 2008