“Quo has taken place against unpopular despot”. Benazir termed Nawaz Sharif

(12 Oct 1999) Pakistan’s former Premier Benazir Bhutto urged western governments on Tuesday to work with Pakistan’s military leaders and try to persuade them to move towards democratic elections. Whilst she called the military coup in Pakistan “distressing”, Bhutto said that it would also provide a new opportunity for the country to get rid of the elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who she called a “despot”. She said Sharif only had himself to blame for the advent of martial law in Pakistan, because he ignored international warnings to stand down and hold new elections. As news broke of the military coup in Pakistan, all eyes turned to the country’s former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, an outspoken critic of the overthrown leader, Nawaz Sharif. The former premier gave her reaction to the coup in Pakistan from exile in London. SOUNDBITE: (English) “Distressing, disturbing, a new period of crisis, but every crisis is also a period of opportunity. Perhaps this martial law will bring international attention to Pakistan, a country which has a nuclear weapons dispute with India and Osama Bin Laden on its borders. I would like to urge the western community to talk to the military rulers and influence them to return the country to representative government.” Question: “This is not a good way for Pakistan to go is it, for that move of taking power.” Answer: “You are quite right, it is not a good way, it is most unusual, but in Pakistan, something unusual has happened. But usually, coups take place against democratic leaders. Here, a coup has taken place against an unpopular despot who was hounding the press, the judiciary, the opposition, the foreign investors. And when he decided to divide the army, the last institution left, the army reacted. Without going into the justifications of who is worse and the frying pan or the fire, I would like to say ‘let’s move forward’. This is a very dangerous period for a country which has physical bankruptcy and I would like to urge the western community stay away from Nawaz Sharif, he is not liked by the Pakistani people. You support democracy, so talk to the military about what they are going to do about democracy.” Q: “What do you think should be the next step? What do you think should happen?” A: “I would like to see General Pervaiz Musharraf come on television and say that the army reacted because the prime minister had violated all laws and he sought to divide the army. We had no choice, but we are holding elections within three months and returning to our barracks. If he does that, the international community will work with Pakistan. If he doesn’t do that, and if he uses some excuse to grab power for the military, it will raise apprehensions everywhere. And given the fact that we have had a revolution in Iran, given the fact that the Taliban are there in Afghanistan there is a sensitivity towards the rise of radicalism. Pervaiz Musharraf must assure the world that this has nothing to do with radicalism. It has to do with a fascist who went too far.” Q: “For you personally, you are not exactly a great supporter of Nawaz Sharif, for you personally, what does this mean, do you think?” SUPER CAPTION: Benazir Bhutto, Former Pakistani Prime Minister Bhutto, who leads the Pakistan People’s Party, has cancelled a planned visit to Washington and will remain in London as she watches events unfold in her home country.

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