- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Bhutto appeals to U.S.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is appealing to the United States to pressure Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf into holding free and fair elections in October.

"The Pakistani people look toward [the United States] to use its friendship with Gen. Musharraf to ensure that elections are in substance fair," she said in a letter to Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of state for South Asia.

Mrs. Bhutto accused Gen. , who took power in a military coup three years ago, of imposing election laws to prevent her from running for prime minister.

Mrs. Bhutto, living in self-imposed exile in London, faces corruption charges if she returns to Pakistan. Last year, she was sentenced to three years in prison for failing to face trial on the charges, which she and her supporters denounce as politically motivated.

In her letter, Mrs. Bhutto complained about harassment of her supporters including her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who was jailed on corruption charges.

"To pressure the PPP, its senior leaders are arrested," she said, referring to her Pakistan People's Party. "The inhuman and cruel treatment of Sen. Zardari illustrates the situation. He is being held without a conviction."

Yesterday, her supporters in Pakistan announced the creation of the PPP Parliamentarians group to contest the election. Mrs. Bhutto remains the leader of the PPP, but holds no position in the new party, a spokesman said.

Mrs. Bhutto told Mrs. Rocca that Gen. Musharraf created laws to "sabotage the election result" by disqualifying anyone who has served twice as prime minister. Mrs. Bhutto was prime minister from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996. She was dismissed from office on accusations of corruption both times.

The law also bars former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who served from 1991 to 1993 and from 1997 until 1999, when Gen. Musharraf overthrew him. Mr. Sharif was convicted of corruption and lives in Saudi Arabia.

Gen. Musharraf forged a close relationship with the Bush administration by supporting the war against terrorism, but Mrs. Bhutto argued that he cannot guarantee the stability of the country.

"The entire Muslim world today is at the crossroads between the past and the future, between dictatorship and democracy," Mrs. Bhutto said.

Karachi consulate shut

The United States yesterday closed its consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, about six weeks after it was reopened after a deadly car-bomb attack outside the diplomatic mission.

The consulate has closed all its operations for an indefinite period, the State Department said in Washington.

A police source in Pakistan told Agence France-Presse he suspected the move was related to the approaching anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Karachi, a city of 14 million, has suffered anti-Western violence because of Pakistan's decision to support the U.S. campaign against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.

"It's surprising, as we have taken all possible security measures and have deployed police and paramilitary troops around the consulate," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

The consulate closed for four days after the June 14 attack that killed 12 Pakistanis and injured 50 others.

Yesterday's announcement of the consulate's closing came as masked gunmen killed six employees of a Christian missionary school in Murree, a town 30 miles north of Islamabad.

China hits Taiwan bill

China has protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing about congressional legislation that referred to Taiwan as an "ally" of the United States.

"The U.S. government must take effective measures to eliminate the negative impact of the act recently passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President George W. Bush," He Yafei, a Foreign Ministry official, said Saturday.

He was referring to a supplemental appropriations act to increase funds for anti-terrorism measures. China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has threatened to stop any movement toward independence.

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