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Benazir Bhutto Assassinated
Aired December 27, 2007 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Letting us know condemning the acts of violence but also letting us know that the President was informed about the situation in Pakistan, about 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. He was told about it in his morning, his regular briefing with his national security council officials. That's about 7:30 Central time, here, 8:30 back in Washington.
Obviously, the White House trying to stay on top of the situation. The President also planning to weigh in now at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time because there are so many questions now looming over the situation, of the assassination itself, who is responsible for it, what this will lean for stability or lack thereof on the ground in Pakistan.
Also billions of dollars of U.S. aid that has been flowing into Pakistan supposedly to try to lower the violence, bring more stability, help Pakistan rebuild. There have been stories, as you know, in the last few days in the "New York Times" suggesting that billions of dollars in aid have actually been wasted.
Those will be questions the White House will be facing, and also, finally, how will this impact the Pakistani election that is scheduled for January 8th. That is the same day coincidentally that President Bush is planning to head to Israel to try and help push forward on Mideast peace. Obviously, now with that election scheduled that very same day, it's going to be yet another time where the White House will be dealing with this Pakistan story regardless of what else they're focusing on -- Heidi.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: No question about that. All right. CNN's Ed Henry for us in Crawford, Texas. That is where the President is, and just again a quick reminder that we will apparently be hearing from the President anytime now with reaction to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Ed Henry, thank you for that.
Quickly now, I want to recap for you. A breaking news that we are following all morning long out of Pakistan. The assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. It happened at a rally in Rawalpindi where we understand there were thousands of her supporters gathered. We are also learning that there have been at least 14 of her supporters killed in this attack.
Apparently, a suicide bomber detonated at the entrance to this compound where the rally was taking place. But as she was just leaving and getting into some type of white vehicle, she was apparently shot inside. It is not clear at this time whether or not she died from that explosion or from those shots, but certainly indicative of serious questions that will be asked about her personal security in all of this. Once again, Benazir Bhutto, leading opposition voice against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get you now to our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee. Zain, one of the more eerie things I've heard from a number of fronts this morning is that somehow or another this had an air of inevitability about this, and, in fact, you had a conversation with the former prime minister where she herself had a sense that she was very much putting her own safety, her life, in danger.
VOICE OF ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. We went to see her at the Pakistan People's Party headquarters. It was surrounded with security. It was difficult to get in and see her. But when we finally did, one of the first things she told us in our interview was that she was fearful of her life. She was aware what the risks were and that she was willing to take them. She seemed very determined, and by the impression I got, very brave given all the threats against her life, a secular woman in Pakistan speaking openly against Al Qaeda and against the war on terror.
In the interview, she did also express that her daughters were incredibly worried about her after the first assassination attempt. She had gone back to Dubai, which is where they are, and tried to reassure them, but always said that Pakistan was first, and she was adamant to become prime minister again and bring Pakistan on the path to democracy.
HARRIS: Zain, maybe you have just answered it, but I have to ask it in a very pointed way. Why? Why did she really want to do this? What did she believe she had within her grasp in terms of her personal abilities to reshape the political landscape in that very, let's say it, very violent country. This is a woman who has lost family members to the kind of violence that is now befallen her. Why?
VERJEE: Well, she believed that this is something that she wanted to see happen for the good of Pakistan. She believed that she was a moderate secular and popular leader that could take Pakistan down the road to democracy. She was very critical of General Musharraf saying essentially by imposing emergency law that he had failed to do that. He had managed to garner a huge amount of anti- American sentiments in the country, anti-Musharraf sentiment. She thought she's popular enough to be able do it.
Now, you have to understand the Bhutto name in Pakistan carries a huge weight. It's not just Benazir, her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founder of her own party, was a hugely popular person and really came to power with the idea of people power. They would deal with the real bread and butter issues. And she thought she could turn around and change that.
Given the threat of security in Pakistan and to her own life, I asked her, you know, what more can she do in the war on terror that Musharraf hasn't done? And she didn't really have a satisfactory answer for that, only saying that I'm going to work with the military to fight the war on terror -- Tony. HARRIS: Zain, we just got a statement from Tom Casey, who I know you know, deputy state department spokesman. It says we have seen the press reports. We're seeking confirmation, but we do not have any definitive word one way or the other about former prime minister Bhutto's condition. That coming from Tom Casey, a deputy state department spokesperson.
So, Zain, I'm sort of curious, you've traveled with the former prime minister, you know the lay of the land in Pakistan, I'm wondering what you anticipate the reaction to this news to be in an already unstable country looking forward? What do you think?
VERJEE: Well, firstly, this will be a major shock and a political earthquake in the country that's really going to stun the whole process. It's going to mean that there is a major and serious leadership vacuum, a popular leadership in the country. You're probably going to see the military try and reinforce its own power perhaps in more repressive ways, potentially re-establishing martial law in the country because the military is likely to use that to try and stabilize the country.
I would anticipate also street demonstrations and angry mobs, violence, riots. It's hard to predict though because people are also afraid to come out because of this kind of violence. People that we asked would say we care about the bread and butter issues. We don't want to go out and be on the streets and riot and put ourselves in the line of fire. So we're likely to see some extent of that, but it remains to be seen because it's just difficult to predict how many people will come out given the security fears in the country.
HARRIS: Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee with us this morning. Zain, appreciate it. Thank you.
COLLINS: I want to tell you a little bit more about what we are learning. Again, as a rapidly developing story comes to us this morning, the assassination of former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto. We have some new video to show you, of quite a chaotic scene outside the hospital where Benazir Bhutto was taken, and also you see there Nawar Sharif. He is an ally of Benazir Bhutto. He was also there when she arrived. And a lot of pushing and shoving. People very emotional and upset.
We should also remind you this attack on Benazir Bhutto and the 14 other people, her supporters, that were killed, came just a few hours after four supporters of Nawar Sharif were killed when members of a different political party opened fire on them. That was at a rally near the Islamabad airport.
So again, just a good indication of the massive instability and violence taking place in Pakistan on this day. We want to take a moment to get to our Pentagon correspondent now, Barbara Starr, standing by. Barbara, as we wait to get more information, particularly that statement from the President of the United States shortly here, we are talking a lot this morning about military rule and President Pervez Musharraf. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Heidi. Just to reset why, besides the obvious, which is the violence in the pictures we're seeing, why the Bush administration is so concerned about this. Pakistan, number one, a vital ally in the war on terror, in the war against Al Qaeda. Number two, the Bush administration knows that President Musharraf's position is delicate, had always known that there were threats against Mrs. Bhutto since she returned to Pakistan several weeks ago. What the Bush administration wants to see in Pakistan and what is vital really for the world security is to see some stabilization there.
These attacks that have been going on for weeks, and especially today's situation, really cause a good deal of concern. When there is instability in Pakistan, there is a security vacuum. There is concern Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda sympathizers fill that vacuum and see Pakistan as an area that they can use to plan more attacks, more attacks inside Pakistan, more attacks in Europe, more attacks around the world. That has been the growing concern in recent weeks here at the Pentagon, in the White House, in the intelligence community.
Just last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates talked about Pakistan becoming an increasing safe haven for Al Qaeda and for Al Qaeda sympathizers. It's a serious, vital concern. If they can use Pakistan as a safe haven, they can plan more attacks. We have seen them over the last many months, Pakistan sympathizers being potentially responsible for attacks in Europe, for attacks in the United Kingdom, and of course that growing concern that they always could be using this as a staging ground to plan attacks against the United States.
So what has the Bush administration been doing? They've been trying to press the Musharraf government to restore democracy, bring stability to the streets, get the military back into the business of working to counter insurgency, to counter Al Qaeda, once stability is brought back to the streets of Pakistan. There's a new military leader in Pakistan, someone most Americans have never heard of, his named is General Katani. The Pentagon had been in the initial stages of reaching out to him, trying to finance new programs to work with the Pakistani security services and the Pakistani military.
But one of the questions today is going to be who was responsible for this? Were the Pakistani Security Services complicit? Was it a lone attacker? You know, the U.S. has long believed that the Pakistani Security Services certainly have been infiltrated by Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda sympathizers. In these early hours, Heidi, I must tell you we have talked to a number of key officials who would know, and they say the U.S. still right now has no clear understanding of who was behind this -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Wow. Well, obviously we are going to be following that angle of the story very, very closely here at CNN. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr for us this morning. Barbara, thank you.
HARRIS: Let's get to our senior political analyst Bill Schneider right now in Des Moines, Iowa, and, Bill, for -- well, I guess it feels like the last couple weeks, the topic has been the economy for so many of the candidates. Now you get breaking news like this today, and the whole idea of the war on terrorism moves front and center again in the conversation for these candidates.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Economic and domestic issues, illegal immigration, health care, those issues have been moving to the forefront of the campaign. Pakistan seemed very far away from Iowa where I am right now, but suddenly world events have come much closer, and suddenly knowledge and experience are likely to emerge as important qualities in these presidential candidates competing to be the next leader of the free world.
There are many candidates who are trying to make the claim that they have the knowledge and experience to run the country, to lead the world. Hillary Clinton uses that as her principal campaign theme, though the quality and nature of her experience are under challenge from her competitors. Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, has talked a great deal about the danger represented by instability in Pakistan.
I recall his saying in several debates that the real threat, the real danger to the world is not so much in Iraq or even Iran, but in Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons already.
SCHNEIDER: And an unstable condition in this country could be a very serious threat. Chris Dodd has been in Washington a long time. Bill Richardson has been a troubleshooter in foreign policy, and on the republican side Rudy Giuliani has made the war on terror his signature issue. He was the first republican to come out with a statement. He said this morning her death, Bhutto's death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere, New York, Tel Aviv, Rawalpindi, is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win what he calls the terrorists' war on us.
HARRIS: That's interesting. I wonder if we might be rethinking that statement from Giuliani so early when even the White House has not offered up a statement confirming the death at this point, but, you know, that's maybe a discussion for later today. Bill Schneider for us this morning. Bill, appreciate it. Thank you.
COLLINS: I want to take a moment to show you some new video that we are getting in here. Just as soon as we get it, we want to show it to you. This is, unfortunately, some of the scene at Rawalpindi General Hospital. This is where many of the injured in this attack were taken. This is also where Benazir Bhutto was taken and pronounced dead. You can see obviously many people were injured in all this. We do not have exact numbers, but we are hearing at least 14 of her supporters were killed, many others injured today. We will continue to follow that portion of the story for you.
In the meantime, we want to get to CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen now. He's joining us live from Washington, D.C.. And Peter, as we look at these pictures, we are actually looking at Nawar Sharif now too. There is so much to talk about by way of what happens next for this country of Pakistan and the instability that seems to find itself in at this time.
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think, Heidi, what first happens is a time of national mourning in Pakistan. The Bhutto family is sort of akin to the royal family almost in Pakistan. This is an event not dissimilar to the Kennedy assassination in this country or even perhaps like a 9/11-like event. Because this is after all a secular woman, former prime minister, two times. Somebody whose family has been beset by tragedy. Two of her brothers were assassinated, one in the south of France, one in Pakistan. Her father executed by the previous military dictator. Certainly, the most famous political family in Pakistan.
So, first, a period of national mourning. Second, a question about what will happen with the elections which were scheduled for the first week of January.
BERGEN: President Musharraf could easily invoke a state of national emergency. Obviously, that would be quite helpful for him, but, you know, it's still too early to speculate, but certainly he would have some grounds to say that the election date is, needs to be perhaps readjusted or delayed. After all, not only is she, comes from this very well-known family, she is after all the most popular politician in Pakistan. She was polling at 63% in a poll just several weeks ago, which is much higher than her rivals or General Musharraf.
What does her political party do? She was the chairperson for life in her political party, somebody who is, you know, there was no question about her dominance in that party. So, there's no one really who can replace her. What does that do for the election? I think it calls the election into great, you know, there's a lot of questions, and one of the big questions I have, at Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where she was assassinated is the center of the Pakistani military. This is akin to a major political figure in the United States getting killed very near the Pentagon.
BERGEN: Why the lack of security, you know, in the place where she's the center of the Pakistani military is going to be a huge question.
COLLINS: Yes. I think you're absolutely right, and we have already touched on that just a little bit. Obviously it's really hard to talk about right now because we just don't have a lot of answers. But when we look at the video we are looking at actually. It's not this particular video, but we have shown it several times, Peter, where it appears to be the last video taken of her getting into that white van or jeep-like vehicle.
Actually this is it. Pardon me. And we look at all of the security around her or at least what appears to be the security around her. We have talked so much already this morning about the possible infiltration of that security and her inability after the attack a couple months ago when she came back out of exile to Pakistan for the first time. I mean, there were nearly 140 people killed in that. She was not apparently able to make amends to the security situation?
BERGEN: Well, apparently not. I mean, you know, we've had assassinations in this country where, you know, President Kennedy was assassinated. He obviously had reasonably good security. So, you can't protect yourself from everything, unfortunately. And I mean, Benazir Bhutto knew she was taking a risk when she went back.
I met with her and her husband, and her husband said, I said to her husband you must be very happy, you know, you're going back after all these years of exile. It looks very promising for you politically. And he said, yes, but there are a lot of risks attached.
Of course, you know, first the assassination attempt in October and now this. Clearly, it was a very risky endeavor, but Benazir Bhutto lived for politics. Her father was prime minister. This is something she lived and breathed. This is not something that she wanted to refuse to go back. This was her moment. The party was going to do well politically it looked like, and she was not going to turn down this ability to go back and perhaps be prime minister for the third time. That was certainly no done deal.
There were a number of constitutional issues there, but she would undoubtedly have done well in the election that was scheduled for early January. And she would have been an important political player, whatever the outcome, whether she was made prime minister or whether she took some other role in some kind of coalition government. Heidi.
COLLINS: Talked for a little bit because I know that you are very well versed in this particular topic, and that is the Al Qaeda- backed tribal militants that we know are warring with the Pakistani Army, which we have also spoken about this morning as being a very, very powerful force in that country. What are the effects of that? Again, I just want to point out, Peter, as we speak with you about that, the video that we are looking at again now is apparently the last video that has been shot and taken of the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, getting into that white jeep and traveling off after the rally.
Again, that is the vehicle that we believe someone shot into just around the same time that the suicide bomber detonated himself at the entrance to where this rally was taking place. Still trying to get confirmation on whether or not it was the shots that may have killed her or that explosion. Just want to point that out to you, Peter.
BERGEN: Indeed. Well, let's look at the General Musharraf himself has been the subject of two very serious assassination attempts in the area where Benazir Bhutto was killed today, and if you look at those attacks, they're quite interesting because they involve low level members of the military. These attacks back in 2003, Heidi, you may remember and they also involve militants linked to Al Qaeda.
Now, we don't know anything about the details of this attack, but I think it's a pretty fair bet to me that an attack in Rawalpindi, the center of Pakistan's military must have involved some low level military, somebody who could infiltrate in that area. That doesn't mean it's being sanctioned by the military. Of course, the attacks on General Musharraf had the same modus operandi. I didn't mean that the attacks against General Musharraf was sanctioned by the military, but low level people in the military were involved in them. Again, that's very plausible in Benazir Bhutto's case.
But the attack itself would have been directed by Al Qaeda, Taliban, elements in Pakistan who obviously don't like women in general, particularly don't like women who would seem to be, who are the most promising political figures in the country, particularly don't like women who avowedly say they're going to go after Al Qaeda and Taliban and run a secular political party in Pakistan. So, you know, that, I think clearly, these are the people with the most desire to do this. Of course, it was a suicide attack. It was quite well planned. These kinds of things do indicate a Taliban/Al Qaeda influence.
We have had had a rash of suicide attacks in Pakistan since the beginning of the year. This were quite unusual but this technique has been imported by Al Qaeda into Pakistan. They have been, most of these attacks have been directed against Pakistani military, police officials, and now, of course, Benazir Bhutto herself.
COLLINS: All right, CNN's Peter Bergen for us today. Peter, we certainly appreciated you sticking around. Thank you.
HARRIS: We'll take a moment to give you just a quick look ahead. We're going to take a quick break, but when we come back a couple people we will be speaking with.
First of all, CNN's correspondent in Dubai. As you know Dubai is where Benazir Bhutto was living with her family. We will be talking with CNN correspondent Wilf Dennick and also when we come back we will be speaking with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani when we come back.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Once again, we are continuing to follow breaking news out of Pakistan. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. She died of wounds suffered after an attack at her campaign rally in Rawalpindi. We'll take a moment now and speak with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani. Mr. Durrani, thanks for your time. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador for being here.
MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTAN'S AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Hi, Tony.
HARRIS: If you would, let me first, I guess it's the basic question, but I am curious as to your reaction to the news this morning. DURRANI: Well, basically I think it's a national tragedy and a day of national mourning for Pakistan, and we have lost one of our important, very important and I would stress liberal leader, and it is a great national loss. We are all very sad, that includes the government, that includes the people of Pakistan, that includes all opposition parties who are into the upcoming elections.
HARRIS: Do you have any kind of an official statement from the president of Pakistan? We understand that he has ordered an emergency meeting of the cabinet. Anything beyond that?
DURRANI: Yes, except that I did speak with the President of Pakistan about an hour and a half back, and this is just before he was going into the meeting, and he has very strongly condemned this attack, and he calls this a national loss, and he has said that he will declare some kind of national mourning after this. So, that is what I am expecting out of the meeting.
HARRIS: We're talking about two former prime ministers of your country today in two separate campaign-type rallies, events, in your country, two different locations obviously, and violence accompanying both of those occasions. It seems as this as your country moves further along the road to democracy, it is not without some significant road blocks. Please explain, if you would, what is going on right now and the forces at work in your country that seem to be bent on impeding a move to democracy?
DURRANI: Well, first of all, I think the government of President Musharraf and the interim government, which is there now, they all want to move towards democracy, and Musharraf has said that this is his third phase of moving into a democracy with a civilian president. He's taken off his uniform. We are looking forward to the elections, but why we were looking forward to the elections, we also knew the dangers that were lurking, and that is the terrorists who do not want a liberal government in Pakistan, who do not want democracy in Pakistan. They will try and stop the process, obviously.
So I think this is for the liberal element and the democratic elements in Pakistan to get together, work together, and ensure that democracy comes in spite of the opposition.
HARRIS: Would you agree, we've heard this from a number of sources this morning, knowledgeable in the politics and the dynamics of your country, that your military forces, your security forces, are infiltrated by elements who are anti-democratic in nature?
DURRANI: I think a lot of these analysts, so-called specialists, with due respect to them, they don't know the Pakistan military. Pakistan military has been fighting in the (INAUDIBLE) provinces, in the tribal areas, and we have had no defections. They have had them fighting some of their own people.
I think the military is a very well-organized, very disciplined force, and they are looking forward to democracy. Yes, when you have a force of about let's say 500,000, 600,000, there may be an odd chap, but saying there's any organized opposition to democracy or so, that's totally incorrect. I would say false.
HARRIS: So, Mr. Ambassador, how do you explain that this would happen in a city that has been described by many of our analysts today as one of the central areas, essentially a military campus, Rawalpindi has been described as such by a number of our analysts today. How does this happen?
DURRANI: Well, some of your analysts need to go and visit that area. I live about a mile away from the site where this happened. I have my house about a mile away. This is a totally civilian area. This is in the city part of Rawalpindi. It is not in the containment part, and even in the containment, normal life goes on, civilians move, trucks, (inaudible). People move by the thousands, and normally you won't find a single soldier in that area.
So anybody who is talking is talking, with due respect, to his hat. He doesn't know the location. I have been to that place. In fact, I saw preparations for this massive gathering about three days back in one of our local televisions, and even then I was worried that this open area, huge -- it's a huge, huge park, called Liaqat Park and one of our political leaders, early part in our history was assassinated here, too. So it's a big place with a lot of buildings, and it is open to public because that was a rally.
HARRIS: Mr. Ambassador, will elections move forward? Can they move forward?
DURRANI: I hope, so and I'm sure the government would like the elections to move forward. Now, everybody has to act together to make the elections move together. I mean, the government and the opposition and everybody.
HARRIS: Wouldn't they lack all credibility at this point?
DURRANI: Well, this is in the eye of the beholder I think. Why should they lack credibility? Because the political parties are moving on. Pakistan is used to crisis, and we move on in spite of crisis. We have gone through many before in our life, and god willing, we live through this too.
HARRIS: Ambassador Durrani, thank you for your time today.
DURRANI: My pleasure.
COLLINS: 10:30 Eastern time now here in the United States. Want to give you the very latest on what has happened in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and that is the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. We are looking at some video that we have gotten in from just moments before this assassination. It took place earlier today at a rally where thousands of her supporters were gathered.
Apparently at least 14 of those supporters were also killed. There was a suicide bomber. We are learning from our sources on the ground there who came into this rally, tried to get in at the entrance, and detonated himself. This video also important to show you, particularly because we have been talking so much this morning already about the security situation surrounding the former prime minister. You see there in the back of the vehicle that she just got into, again, this is moments before the assassination, almost a second vehicle inside, a shell of armor that the gentleman behind in the jeep there closed up before closing that hatchback. That tells us again, don't want to speculate here, but that that was an armored vehicle.
As we watch that vehicle drive off, we see several other people surrounding the vehicle, walking with her as she moves very slowly through the crowd. Again, very difficult to tell which of those people are assigned security detail and which of them are supporters and possibly those who may have infiltrated that security situation. Certainly something that we have been talking about all morning.
Again, now this just moments before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and now this video, the very chaotic scene after that explosion, and those gunshots were fired inside the vehicle. At this time, important to point out according to former government officials, it is not clear, it appears she died from those bullet wounds. There were five shots fired, but it is not clear whether or not she died from the gunshot wounds or possibly shrapnel from this explosion of the suicide bomber there at the entrance of this rally.
Again, want to take a moment now to bring you even more aspects of this story. We have the opportunity to speak with Wilf Dinnick, he is one of our Dubai correspondents. He was able to talk with Benazir Bhutto's husband very shortly after he got word of her death.
Wilf, tell us about your conversation.
VOICE OF WILF DINNICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, our team spoke to him very briefly twice, and both times the voice cracked, very short conversation. He didn't want to talk at length, but he did say he was devastated, shocked, and it was a time of deep mourning for the family.
I'm actually outside the family's villa here in quite a wealthy neighborhood just outside Dubai City, and just a short while ago, her husband, her three children, the eldest being a 19-year-old who had been visiting from Oxford University had been here on holiday, unconsolable as they left. The son just devastated. So, he's on his way to the airport -- or he's at the airport now. He left a short while ago, and he's heading on that first flight to Karachi to join supporters and other family to mourn obviously.
COLLINS: You know, just a few moments ago, we were able to play some sound in an interview that Benazir Bhutto did with our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee, and she spoke very clearly and also very emotionally about her children, saying that she had three children, and I'm a mother. I wouldn't be taking the risk to be the prime minister a third time basically if she did not believe in the future of the generation that would follow them.
What did he have to say, if anything, obviously at this time, very difficult time for the family, about that and her aspirations?
DINNICK: Well, I can tell you that one of our producers was in touch with a relative who sent an SMS, a text message to us, saying three teenage children, this bombing, it's going to rip our country apart. So, definitely there in Karachi and in Pakistan, tremendous amount of apprehension about what the fallout from this bombing will be, and for sure that she had children and she knew the risks definitely. It's quite shocking obviously to the family.
COLLINS: Did Benazir Bhutto's husband speak at all about the future of Pakistan?
DINNICK: No, really too devastated to speak at length. Both times he spoke, he was just very brief conversations and his voice cracking, saying he had to go. Obviously, just too emotional to express any sort of political thought or the future of Pakistan or even the elections.
The house outside his house now is, of course, there's quite a bit Pakistani community here in Dubai in the UAE, and of course this is where she's self-exiled. This is where she chose to live.
DINNICK: And of course, because it is so close to Pakistan and there's easy access by flights and the UAE provided her security here and they have quite a big villa with a big gate around it. So obviously, a comfortable life for them here, but, no, when we did speak, he didn't go into length about the fallout or the impact of that bombing.
COLLINS: Yes, I imagine not certainly at this time. Wilf, We certainly appreciate the information coming to us from Dubai today. Thank you, Wilf.
HARRIS: And Majid Siddiqui is a journalist with Geo TV in Pakistan. He's with us by phone as well. Majid, if you would, give us the view from Karachi.
Majid, are you there? Can you hear me OK?
MAJID SIDDIQUI, JOURNALIST: Hello, hello?
HARRIS: Are you there? Majid, great, I think we ...
SIDDIQUI: Yes, yes?
HARRIS: ...just made our connection with you. Majid Saddiqui's with Geotelevision in Pakistan. He is joining us from Karachi, and Majid, if you would, give us the view from Karachi.
SIDDIQUI: Oh yes. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the whole country in the grip of violence. There's a chaos in the country, the Karachi city is in the chaos. A lot of fighting incidents they have been reporting by the Geo reporters to the Geo TV. I have been calling to my colleagues and reporting in Karachi city, and the other parts of the country. They have told me that everywhere, the chaos is everywhere in the country, and a few minutes ago, about 30 minutes ago, one of the Geo reporters told Geo TV that there's a bomb blast heard near the Benazir Bhutto's house in Karachi. But the reporter's not confirmed yet.
But a lot of fighting incidents. Two people are injured. One person has died in Lahore City and a few people have been injured in the other parts of the country and a lot of violence in the whole country, yes.
HARRIS: Is this a situation that -- from your view inside, living and working inside of the country, is this a reaction that you would totally anticipate?
SIDDIQUI: Oh, yes, certainly because she was a very popular leader in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto and her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were a symbol of democracy in the country and people -- the majority of the people in the country like Benazir Bhutto, and certainly after her assassination, there will be a lot of chaos, devastation, and there's an uncertain future of Pakistan, and there's a question of the future of Pakistan.
It's a civil war situation in the country and certainly, election will be -- it's my view that election will be canceled and the country is in the grip of violence, so we will have to pray for the future of the country.
HARRIS: What do you believe will happen politically? Can you see President Musharraf reinstituting that state of emergency? Is that a possibility?
SIDDIQUI: Oh, President Musharraf is having a meeting in Islamabad. And he has asked the public to come and -- and maybe he's heading, maybe he'll go for the cancellation of elections in the country, but I don't think that there will be emergency in the country again.
HARRIS: OK, Majid Siddiqui with Geotelevision out of Pakistan. He joins us from Karachi on the phone this morning. Majid, thank you.
COLLINS: Growing reaction online as word spreads of the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Our Isha Sesay is live now at the international desk on more on what is being said out there today.
Hi there, Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Heidi.
Yes, you're right, it didn't take long at all before people started going online and expressing their feelings about the turn of events that have taken place in Pakistan today. A blogger calling himself Indian Ocean writes on the "Pakistan Tribune's" Web site, "It is a shocking, tense, and unstable situation for Pakistanis and also to us. May God help you guys. You need to somehow get a Democratic representative and popular government in place."
On secretmutiny.com, lots of reaction, much of it, Heidi, much of it condemning Benazir Bhutto's decision to return to Pakistan. Ponian (ph) writes this, "Poor Benazir. She is stupid to believe that Musharraf would provide security. Musharraf is a master of survival techniques."
And a blogger, someone with a screenname -- just with, they say "someone" notes, "Is anyone really surprised? Bhutto embraced her death when she decided to return the second time around. She was either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid."
And candid eye (ph) sums it up with this thought. "Indira Gandhi. Rajiv. Benazir Bhutto. When will it stop? When will assassinations become obsolete? Big question, that one. Many people will be pondering it on this day.
And Mumoq (ph) on Lahore.metblogs.com writes about some of the reaction to the news of Bhutto's assassination he has heard about. We of course here at CNN are working to get more reaction to the situation on the ground, but this Mumoq says, "There are already incident reports of people ransacking offices of political officials, of protesters burning vehicles and the subsequent sense of fear that things will turn for the worse."
Well Heidi, you know, just to let our viewers know, we are working every angle of this story. We're monitoring all the outlets in the region, we're monitoring the Web sites, the TV channels. As soon as we get fresh picture, fresh sound, fresh reaction, we'll bring it to you live here at the International Desk.
Back to you, Heidi.
COLLINS: All right, very good. Want to keep our finger on that, certainly. Isha Sesay for us over at the International Desk. Thanks so much, Isha.
Also, want to take a moment to bring back some of the interview that we did earlier today with a close, personal friend of Benazir Bhutto. This is from Arnaud de Borchgrave. He is also the Senior Adviser and Director of Transnational Threat for the CSIS, and has quite a bit to say about some of her personal thoughts. Had spoken with her a few weeks prior. Let's go ahead and listen in for just a moment.
VOICE OF ARNAUD DE BORCHAVE, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTL. STUDIES: At least half the country is against her. We keep forgetting that Pakistan is a very extreme society. She had pledged to do something about the growing influence of al Qaeda and Taliban in the federally administered tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.
If you look at the recent polls in Pakistan, about 48 percent of the country approves of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. President Bush himself gets the low teens in terms of approval ratings and president Musharraf gets single digits. So it's a very violent society, witness the fact that Benazir Bhutto's father, Ali Bhutto was hanged. Two of her brothers were assassinated.
There have been nine failed attempts on president Musharraf's Life. The country has been under military rule for half its life span of 60 years, and earlier this year you had an important mosque in downtown Islamabad occupied by pro-Taliban and pro al Qaeda elements.
They even had Cobra gun ships hovering over this mosque and it took them several months to launch an assault to get the extremists out of the mosque in the downtown area of the nation's capital. So that gives you some idea of how extreme everything seems to be in Pakistan.
COLLINS: We have seen some many different instances where she has been so close down with the people, essentially in very vulnerable positions, although we always see her surrounded by security guards and so forth. Right there with the people, and I know that that was something that she wanted to do, and that was connect with the Pakistani people.
BORCHGRAVE: And she had connected in a big way. I think she was well on her way to becoming prime minister following the January elections. She was, I think, a shoo-in as prime minister. It would have been a very uneasy relationship with president Musharraf who had just taken off his uniform and will be president.
They have been rivals for a long time, so I had a hard time understanding how that would work in practice. How the army would respond to her, how security services would respond to her, it was a big, big question in my mind and I think in hers, too.
COLLINS: What will happen next for the people of Pakistan?
BORCHGRAVE: Well, obviously there's going to be a period of mourning now. I can't see the military giving up power as quickly as they were expected to in the next few days after the elections. This will be an argument for keeping -- perhaps even declaring martial law until things sort themselves out. It's almost impossible to predict.
(END AUDIO TAPE)
HARRIS: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we will talk to a correspondent Mohsin Abbas, he is just outside of Benazir Bhutto's home in Karachi, Pakistan. He will be describing a very chaotic scene there, and also we will talk to CNN's White House correspondent Ed Henry. He's traveling with the president in Crawford, Texas right now.
The president scheduled to make a statement at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. But first a break. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: And live pictures now of the Pakistani embassy. Let's take you there in Washington, D.C., where we're anticipating a statement in just moments. There you go to live pictures. Again, Washington, D.C., just out front of the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C. We're anticipating a statement. When that actually happens we will bring that -- of course we will bring that to you live.
Breaking news, we've been following it all morning for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. She died of wounds suffered after an attack at her campaign rally in Rawalpindi. Bhutto appears to have been shot in the neck.
Not confirmed as of yet, but a former government official tells CNN it is not clear yet if Bhutto's wounds were caused by gunshots or bomb shrapnel. A suicide bomber reportedly opened fire, then blew himself up. It happened just as the opposition leader was leaving a rally after a speech to thousands of supporters.
At least 14 other people are confirmed dead in the bombing. And again, just to make the note and drill down on this point a bit more. You see that land cruiser, that Toyota SUV, that is the vehicle that Benazir Bhutto was traveling in, and the pictures you're seeing here are the last pictures of her alive as she was traveling in that vehicle, and shortly after these pictures is when the attack took place.
The most recent -- the very last pictures that we have here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: And it's interesting, too, when we look at those pictures, Tony because we've already been talking so much this morning about the security situation, and if, in fact, it was as good as it could have been. Lots of questions about that. I'm sure those questions will continue to be answered.
Again, so much surrounding whether or not she should have been taking the risk that she was taking. She was well aware of them, we heard her discuss them in different interviews she's done. Very well aware of the risk and the threats on her life. This is no where near the first time that she's come up against violence.
We remember very well here the terror attack targeted her motorcade in Karachi when she first returned to Pakistan after eight years of exile and nearly 140 people were killed.
HARRIS: I think you make a great point. A number of them there. There was a posting -- well, my goodness, it was at the end of October, a couple weeks after she returned to Pakistan, and she wrote a column for cnn.com.
And in it she wrote I have long claimed that the rise of extremism and militancy in Pakistan could not happen without support from elements within the current administration, and that is -- boy, that is a view Heidi, we have heard reflected from many of our analysts and experts this morning. And the, here she is later in the piece talking about the security situation, her personal security. I was asked by authorities not to travel in cars with tinted windows which protected me from identification by terrorists or travel with privately-armed guards. I began to feel the net was being tightened around me when police and security outside my home in Karachi was reduced. Even as I was told that other assassination plots were in the offing. That from a posting at cnn.com from the former prime minister just two weeks after she returned to Pakistan in October.
COLLINS: Yes, and interesting, too, there's a potential -- another security situation going on in the country now, because we are aware that police are warning citizens to stay home as they do expect rioting to break out in some of the city streets here as more and more people learn of the news that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated, and as they start to absorb that, it is very possible, they are saying, that there could be quite a bit more violence that could take place today. We're already getting word of a bit of that happening.
Also, the major question, I believe as far as on the government side of things, whether or not President Pervez Musharraf will enact emergency rule, military rule, once again. That he's enacted several weeks ago, and then taken off of the plate, if you speak. And now we just really don't know if that's going to be the case.
HARRIS: Well, yes I think -- again, I mean, we are anticipating -- let's sort of run it down for you. Reaction from the president in Crawford, Texas, in about ten minutes or so to the news, and Peter Bergen is standing by for us right now. And I believe, Peter -- we don't have him? OK, that's fine.
But to your point, Heidi, in terms of what the reaction is going to be in the streets of Pakistan. And again, you think about the major cities in Pakistan, the capital, of course, Islamabad, you think about Lahore, you think about Karachi where Benazir Bhutto was living, and you can imagine that there is going to be all kinds of reaction and some violence.
We're getting some indications, early indications right now, of violence in the streets. Let's get you to our Wolf Blitzer. And as we bring Wolf in, Wolf, I -- in many respects I just feel like I just want to toss you this open ended question as to -- because you talked to so many of the figures connected to the story, what your thoughts are. You certainly have spoken on a number of occasions with Benazir Bhutto.
Your thoughts, your reaction to the news this morning?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, Tony, in the past few weeks I have spoken with her at least on three occasions, although I think four occasions, including just before she left Washington to go back to Pakistan after eight years in exile, most of that time she was in Dubai, a lot of the time in London, but also a lot of the time in the United States as well.
Remember, this is a woman who had very close ties with very influential Americans. She had studied at Harvard University. And she knew a lot of important people going back to those days, but also to her days as the prime minister of Pakistan.
She was very, very well plugged in, and I can tell you she believed from the start that if something were to happen to her in Pakistan, she would blame the president, President Pervez Musharraf, for not providing the kind of security that she felt she need, the kind of robust security that would be necessary for her to go around the country campaigning. She was trying to be elected the prime minister on these elections January 8th.
And there's no doubt that her supporters will believe that President Musharraf will bear some of the responsibility for this, for not giving her the kind of 24/7 security that a political figure like this deserved, especially given what happened to her upon her return to Karachi.
And we all remember that horrific, horrific day. More than 100 people were killed, hundreds of others were injured in those suicide bombing attacks. She went back there though, Tony and Heidi, fully aware of the dangers she was facing. Because, when I spoke with her in Washington in "THE SITUATION ROOM," she openly acknowledged she was scared. She wanted to go back, she said, because she felt it was necessary for the people of Pakistan.
Let me read to you a quote what she said to me when I pointed out that her father, another former prime minister, had been executed in Pakistan, "It was a terrible moment in my life," she said, "but I also learned from him that one has to stand up for the principles that they believe in, and I am standing up for the principle of democracy. I'm standing up for moderation, and I am standing up for hope for the people of Pakistan who today are poor and miserable and really quite desperate."
That was the kind of chilling language that she conveyed. She really didn't have to go back. I mean, she was well to do. She was living comfortably, whether in Dubai or London or the United States, but she was committed to trying to do something. She wanted to regain power in Pakistan. She was trying to work out some sort of deal with President Musharraf, but that clearly did not happen.
I think we have an excerpt, Tony and Heidi, of that interview that I did with her only days before she left to go back to Pakistan. Let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're a relatively young woman. How scared are you though because, as you know, Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, they've attacked you in the past and they clearly would like to go after you now.
BENAZIR BHUTTO, FMR. PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: Yes, of course they would like to go against me. There's a lot at threat because other military dictatorship and anarchy situation has developed, which the terrorists and Osama have exploited. They don't want democracy. They don't want me back.
BLITZER: They don't want a woman to be the prime minister of Pakistan either.
BHUTTO: And they don't believe in women governing nations, so they will try to plot against me, but these are risks that must be taken. I'm prepared to take them.
BLITZER: Your family has a history, unfortunately, a tragic history, of assassination.
BHUTTO: I know the past has been tragic, but I'm an optimist by nature. I put my faith in the people of Pakistan. I put my faith in God. I feel that what I am doing is for a good cause, for a right cause, to save Pakistan from extremists and militants, and to build regional security. I know the dangers are there, but I'm prepared to take those risks.
My father was killed. It was a very terrible moment in my life, but I also learned from him that one has to stand up for the principles they believe in, and I'm standing up for the principle of democracy. I'm standing up for moderation, and I'm standing up for hope for all the people in Pakistan who today are poor and miserable and really quite desperate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There you have it. Clearly chilling words to see her then in that taped interview and know that only hours ago she was killed. She was assassinated, and a lot of people are saying right now it was totally predictable given the dangers there.
And Tony and Heidi, let's just also remember one thing about the stakes for the United States in Pakistan right now. This is an Islamic country that, under President Musharraf since 9/11, has worked closely with the U.S. But there's still a lot of Islamic fundamentalists there. There's a Taliban element. There are supporters of al Qaeda, and on top of all of that, this is a country that already has a nuclear arsenal.
So, the stakes for not only the region but for the world right now are enormous. I pointed that out to President Musharraf when I spoke with him on "LATE EDITION" only a couple weeks ago. He insisted, though, that the security situation, as far as the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan was concerned, was good. But I can tell you there's a lot of concern right now because no one knows how this assassination is going to unfold, what the ramifications are going to be.
HARRIS: Wolf, I've got another quick one for you, and I know Heidi has got a bunch of questions for you. Any doubt in the minds of the people that you've talked to on this story over the years, that the Pakistani military, security forces, intelligence forces, are infiltrated by anti-Democratic forces and more pointedly on this day, enemies of Benazir Bhutto? BLITZER: You know, I've spoken to a lot of experts on Pakistan, people who really know this country, this subject in and out. And despite all of the fierce denials from President Musharraf that he has the intelligence service under control, the military under control, that they have not been infiltrated by sympathizers or supporters of al Qaeda or Islamic fundamentalists, or the Taliban, almost every outside observer, people who really know what's going on in Pakistan, are really worried that there are elements there that aren't necessarily aligned with President Musharraf and his strong alliance with the United States since 9/11.
He's -- you know, he's by no means perfect. He's got a lot of problems. He brings a lot of baggage to the table. But I can tell you this, U.S. officials believe it could be a whole, whole lot worse if someone else took over who was much more aligned with the Taliban or al Qaeda or Muslim fundamentalists. So it's an awful situation by any accounts. There are no great options right now, and the big wildcard is how does this play out? What happens now, in the aftermath of this political assassination?
HARRIS: Yes. And another thought comes to me, we were talking about it weeks ago, the unseemly number of -- for many people, billions of dollars that -- in aid, United States aid, to Pakistan, this ally in the "War on Terror." Also, as the president promotes his freedom and democracy agenda, and on a day like today you wonder what we're getting for the investment.
BLITZER: About $10 billion in U.S. aid has been provided, military assistance, to Pakistan since 9/11. Only the other day there were reports that about $5 billion was not necessarily all that fully accounted for. That money that was supposed to be used to bolster the Pakistani military along the border with Afghanistan, those tribal areas where the suspicion is Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding out, the al Qaeda elements, Taliban elements.
That so much of that money was supposed to be used to build up the Pakistan military in order to enable them to go into those tribal areas to destroy the remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban, that the money was used for other purposes and was not necessarily well- accounted for.
So there's a lot of audits going on right now, and there are going to be a lot of people questioning, is this money well spent, the billions of dollars that are going to Pakistan.
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