Pakistan 'could be another Somalia'

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The Independent Online

Asif Zardari, husband of murdered Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, has called for President Pervez Musharraf to resign and warned that the country could turn into another Somalia.

He also poured scorn on the government's claim that al-Qa'ida was behind the attack on Ms Bhutto. Instead he blamed "the establishment, which is bigger than Musharraf himself".

"I don't think we're as yet a threat to Al-Qa'ida. We weren't in government. Why aren't they killing off the existing structure of the government? Why would they come after us?" he said. "There are definitely some in-house games going on, which either nobody is aware of or are scared to unearth," he said, speaking from his wife's home in her ancestral village of Naudero, where he and the children continued to mourn her loss yesterday.

He said that the government's claims of al-Qa'ida involvement was simply "muddying the waters". He described Pakistan's role in the so-called war on terror, which he described as "shadow boxing". "That shadow-boxing is going to turn into a giant and take over the country one day," he said.

Mr Zardari, 51, and his son Bilawal, 19, were made co-chairmen of the People's Party, after Ms Bhutto's assassination, replacing her at the head of Pakistan's most popular political group.

Asked whether she was killed because of the election and the evidence she said she had of the government's election-rigging, he said he thought that this was one of the motives. "I think this assassination is larger than just these polls. This [election] is definitely one of the reasons. That they didn't want her coming into power because these shadow-boxing games could not go on."

He warned that Pakistan was hurtling towards disintegration, a failed state. "My fears are of Pakistan being totally broken up," he said. "Being converted into Somalia. I think that is a great possibility. And I think that everybody, every intellectual, is not really paying attention to it because they have got their head in the ground, like ostriches."

Underlining the severity of the threat, he continued: "Somalia had 30 million population. We're 175 million. Somalia did not have the Afghan arms on the border. Somalia did not have hundreds and thousands of madrassas [Islamic schools]."