Sources: Bhutto was to give U.S. lawmakers vote-rigging report
|Tuesday, January 1,2008 22:41|
On the day she died, Benazir Bhutto planned to hand over to visiting U.S. lawmakers a report accusing Pakistan"s intelligence services of a plot to rig parliamentary elections, sources close to the slain former Pakistani prime minister told CNN Tuesday.
A top Bhutto aide who helped write the report showed a copy to CNN.
"Where an opposing candidate is strong in an area, they [supporters of President Pervez Musharraf ] have planned to create a conflict at the polling station, even killing people if necessary, to stop polls at least three to four hours," the document says.
The report also accused the government of planning to tamper with ballots and voter lists, intimidate opposition candidates and misuse U.S.-made equipment to monitor communications of opponents.
"Ninety percent of the equipment that the USA gave the government of Pakistan to fight terrorism is being used to monitor and to keep a check on their political opponents," the report says. FPRIVATE "TYPE=PICT;ALT=Video"Watch the controversy surrounding Pakistan elections »
The Pakistani government denied the allegations, with two Pakistani diplomatic sources calling the report "baseless." Rashid Qureshi, a spokesman for Musharraf, called the accusations "ridiculous" and said the election will be "free, fair and transparent."
"I think they are just a pack of lies," he said.
One Bhutto source said the document was compiled at her request and said the information came from sources inside the police and intelligence services.
The election had been scheduled for January 8, but in the wake of Bhutto"s assassination, the Election Commission is expected to announce Wednesday that it will delay the vote at least four weeks into February, sources at the commission said.
Sen. Latif Khosa, who helped put the report together, accused the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence of operating a rigging cell from a safe house in the capital, Islamabad. The goal, he said, is to change voting results electronically on election day.
The ISI has set up a mega-computer system where they can hack any computer in Pakistan and connect with the Election Commission," he said.
Media outlets in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have run reports alleging that retired Brig. Gen. Ejaz Shah -- formerly an Inter-Services Intelligence officer and now head of the civilian Intelligence Bureau -- is involved in the vote rigging plans.
Shah"s name also turned up in a letter Bhutto wrote to Musharraf after the first attempt on her life on October 18, when she returned to Pakistan after eight years in exile, Pakistani media reported. In the letter, the media reported, Shah was one of four Pakistani officials Bhutto named as people who wanted her dead.
The Pakistan government has denied those allegations as well.
Khosa said he could make no link between Bhutto"s assassination and the report. Some terrorism experts also said there was no reason to believe Bhutto was killed because of the report, agreeing with Pakistani government contentions that al Qaeda was responsible for her death