On 60 Minutes Sunday Lara Logan interviewed Pakistan's
President dictator Pervez Musharraf about accusations that he may be to blame for the assassination of his chief political rival, Benazir Bhutto, and what exactly he is doing to combat the resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda, whom his government claims was behind her killing, and whether his government is even trying to find Osama bin Laden.
On all counts, Musharraf's answers were lacking. He repeatedly denies that he was to blame for anything at all and points fingers elsewhere, callously blaming Bhutto for her own death by saying that "it was she to blame alone. Nobody else. Responsibility is hers." Apparently, in his mind, the man who climbed up on the back of the car and shot her in the back of the head and the suicide bomber who blew himself up and everyone else around had nothing to do with it.
Now I don't know whether or not all of the rumors are true that Musharraf or his government actually had a part in Bhutto's death or whether he should be held accountable for denying her repeated requests for more security, but he certainly did himself no favors in this interview to convince anyone otherwise. It's simply ridiculous to blame her "alone" for her death, and his refusal to accept blame for anything, his claims of successes in combating extremists in his country despite all the evidence to the contrary and his apathy towards whether or not his government is even looking for Osama bin Laden was - well - eerily Bush-like.
UPDATE: (Nicole) Some scary drumbeats being heard as far as Pakistan. According to the NY Times, the US is considering covert push in Pakistan (how covert it can be when it's in the NYT is another story), which Tom Hayden at HuffPo also weighs in on as well with a warning to Barack Obama to ratchet back the rhetoric. Moreover, given the news coming out in international circles (because you'll never hear about it in the US media) from Sibel Edmonds about our own actions in allowing Pakistan to develop their nuclear program, can we afford to take such an aggressive stance against Pakistan without risking any lingering goodwill we still hold on the global stage?
(full transcript after the jump)
Logan: The night of the assassination, President Musharraf believes Bhutto broke a basic rule of security in a crowded charged political rally - to be particularly careful when leaving.
Musharaff: She should have just gone and moved fast, gone and waved, yes. But if you're standing and -- because you are vulnerable. You're vulnerable and people are charging. And all the film that you see, people are charging. Now, when people are there by the hundreds swarming around you, this man is one of them. Who can check these people at that stage?
Logan: And the mistake she made, if I understand you correctly, was stopping?
Musharraf: Yes. But then the mistake was not that. I mean, God was kind -- she went into the car in spite of the fact that she was waving and all that. She did go into the car. Now is the point. Why did she stand outside the car?
Logan: Why did she stand up in the hatch?
Musharraf: Entirely. Who's to blame?
Logan: Who is to blame?
Musharaff: Only she.
Logan: So Benazir Bhutto, in your words, should bear some responsibility for what took place for her own death?
Musharraf: For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone. Nobody else. Responsibility is hers.
Logan: Don't you think it will make her supporters crazy to hear you say that?
Musharraf: Well, I don't think so. I mean, that's the fact. She shouldn't have stood up.
Logan: Just so I'm clear, even with the benefit of hindsight, you feel that your government, you and your government, did everything possible to give Benazir Bhutto the security she needed?
Musharraf: Yes, absolutely. She had the threat. So she was given more security than any other person.
Logan: Musharraf conceded that Bhutto's return was a bitter pill to swallow. It was part of a deal engineered by the Bush administration after a year of political unrest and extremist violence in Pakistan.
Logan: There was a year of secret negotiations; the United States administration has made their views very clear. President Bush endorsed Bhutto's return, Condoleezza Rice, they had top State Department officials meeting with her. You yourself went to Dubai and met with her twice.
Musharraf: Well, yes. All this was going - you seem to be well-informed. Very good. Yes it was happening, I agree.
Logan: One of the reasons Benazir Bhutto had such popularity amongst top U.S. officials is that she cast herself as the person who would take action against al Qaeda. Who would go into the tribal areas. Who would get Bin Laden. Who would do all the things that she said you were not doing.
Musharraf: No. Now, again, these are misperceptions of American thinking. All American media, some officials who don't know Pakistan.
Logan: So what are you doing to find Osama bin Laden? What is Pakistan doing? What end are you actually still today - seven years - under you….
Musharraf: We're fighting terrorism. And we are fighting extremism.
Logan: But the question is really within that fight against extremism, what are you doing - if you like - to find Osama Bin Laden?
Musharraf: This is a very long answer.
Logan: That's what Americans want to know.
Musharraf: Okay. We are fighting first of all al Qaeda. Let's take al Qaeda. We have arrested or eliminated about 700 al Qaeda leaders. Only Pakistan has done it. And lately also whoever has been killed or arrested, I challenge -- who else, which other country has done this?
Logan: Well, which other country has Osama bin Laden?
Musharraf: No, I challenge-- I don't accept that at all. There is no proof whatsoever that he is here in Pakistan.
Logan: But are you looking for him?
Musharraf: No, again, the same answer. We are not particularly looking for him but we are operating against terrorists and al Qaeda and militant Taliban. And in the process, obviously, it is combined, maybe we are looking for him also. Yes. If he's here?
Logan: Musharraf was quick to blame Bhutto's assassination on al Qaeda, particularly a local extremist named Beitullah Mehsud, who operates out of Pakistan's lawless tribal region where both al Qaeda and the Taliban enjoy widespread support.
Musharraf: Point two percent of our population is in South Waziristan and North Waziristan. Point two percent.
Logan: Well, that point two percent has be able to cause a lot of trouble.
Musharraf: Yes. We must not say that Taliban are in Pakistan. Pakistan, this is a frontier region. Two tribal agencies of Pakistan.
Logan: It's still inside Pakistan. Any way you look at it.
Musharraf: But it's a small part the population and it is this population where they hide and they get support.
Logan: But they regrouped under ...
Musharraf: Yes, indeed.
Logan: …your watch?"
Musharraf: No, they regrouped because -- not under us. Because of Afghanistan. Okay?
Logan: But under your term as president.
Musharraf: Yes. Yes, indeed.
Logan: They have regrouped and they are stronger than ever.
Musharraf: Well, Taliban. Yes. They may be. They may be. They may be getting stronger. I can’t say for sure.
Logan: Does the U.S. share any of the blame in this?
Musharraf: Yes, of course. I mean everyone, the whole coalition should share the blame for not succeeding.
Logan: Of all the issues 60 Minutes discussed with Musharraf, the one that seemed to affect him the most personally, was about accusations that he may somehow have been involved in Bhutto's death.
Logan: There have been suggestions among certain quarters, particularly amongst Benazir Bhutto's supporters, that you may have had a hand in Bhutto's death.
Musharraf: This is unfortunately a very baseless allegation. Nobody has a right to blame anyone for killing anyone unless they have the proof. I've lived in a family which believes in values - it believes in certain principles. It stands for character. And I stand for that. Why would I be informing her about all these intelligence reports that we have against her, the threat to her? Why would I be doing that? Why would I be concerned about telling her all this? 'Don’t go there, don’t do this, don’t do that.' So these are all indicators. I can't prove it legally, I can't prove my innocence legally. But I can prove it only through what I stand for as a person.
Watch the full interview online on the CBS website here.