Transcript

Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Addresses Bhutto's Assassination

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Thursday, December 27, 2007; 1:32 PM

PAKISTAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S. MAHMUD ALI DURRANI: Good morning, everybody.

We are extremely sorry that Benazir Bhutto, one of our great political leaders, has been assassinated. And it happened immediately after she was addressing a public rally in Rawalpindi, a city that I live in, and in Liaquat Bagh, which is about a mile away from where I live.

I have seen her address a rally there many, many years back. And we are very sorry, and this is a time of mourning for Pakistan. And I think the government of Pakistan has already announced a three-day mourning.

I spoke to the president of Pakistan this morning before he went into his meeting, and he also expressed his shock and condemnation. And he says we strongly condemn this terrorist attack.

This has been done by terrorists, and this should firm up Pakistan's resolve to fight extremism and terrorism. And we will, God willing, keep democracy going in Pakistan.

Thank you.

QUESTION: What about an investigation, Mr. Ambassador? Did Mr. Musharraf talk about that?

DURRANI: I haven't heard his interview myself. I've been on the move, as you can understand. But I'm sure there will be an investigation, absolutely.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DURRANI: We have no solid information, but I'm almost 90 percent sure that it is the extremist terrorists who have been hitting other innocent people that hit Prime Minister Bhutto, too.

QUESTION: So we'll be hearing from President Musharraf (inaudible)?

DURRANI: I think he's already made a statement, if I'm not wrong.

QUESTION: And has he had (inaudible) Secretary Rice or President Bush?

DURRANI: I think President Bush will be calling him shortly. Other world leaders have been calling him.

QUESTION: Can you tell me who he's spoken to?

DURRANI: I think he's spoken to the British prime minister.

I've been on the move, so I will not be up to date on that.

QUESTION: Will the election process continue?

DURRANI: To the best of my knowledge, it will continue. This depends a lot on the opposition leadership in Pakistan.

QUESTION: Do Pakistanis have hope for democracy?

DURRANI: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Do Pakistanis have hope for democracy?

DURRANI: Absolutely. Pakistanis have hope for democracy, because Musharraf is committed. He said he had three phases for democracy. First time when he was chief executive or more or less military ruler. Then he, as a military president (inaudible) parliament. And now his hope is that he is as a civilian president and a full-fledged democracy.

So I think Pakistanis, by and large, want democracy, and I think this is what they'll get.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, you said before that you think that this was the work of terrorists. Keeping in mind that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested in Rawalpindi four years ago for his alleged role in the 9/11 attacks, how confident are you that those who are trying to promote democracy in Pakistan are going to be able to do so without putting their lives or their families' lives at risk?

DURRANI: Basically, I think the question you asked is -- I think the simple answer that I have is that the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are liberal and they want a democratic dispensation. And I think, irrespective of the threat to their lives, they are going to stick with democracy, and I think that should -- in the long run, democracy will flourish in Pakistan.

QUESTION: What is Madam Bhutto's legacy?

DURRANI: I think -- I was just talking to somebody else -- I think her legacy, as I see it -- they may have other views -- I think it is a liberal democracy, a moderate Pakistan, a progressive Pakistan.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, does the government of Pakistan have any responsibility for not protecting her as well as perhaps she should have been?

DURRANI: Well, I personally don't think so, because the government has done its best. But this was a large, large rally. It was in a big what we call Liaquat Bagh. It's a big rallying area. There have been political rallies before. And I recollect many, many years back one of our political leaders was also assassinated here.

MORES

DURRANI: (inaudible) this is a big place. And there are masses of people moving around.

So, in those circumstances, I think the world's best security can have limitations.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DURRANI: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Did you know the former prime minister personally?

DURRANI: Yes, I did. I knew her because I was in government, and I knew her then, and I had the pleasure of meeting her more recently when she visited Washington. We had dinner together.

QUESTION: Do you think there will be any kind of formal state funeral (inaudible)?

DURRANI: I don't know the protocol of that, that when do you have a state funeral and when you don't.

But as I said, that the government has already declared a three days mourning. And I think that is equivalent to any state funeral, in my judgment.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DURRANI: Yes, I would like to assure the American public that Pakistan has gone through many crises before; it's gone through wars, it's gone through assassination attempts, it's gone through, you know, natural calamities.

And our people are resilient, tough. And I think, God willing, we will come out of this crisis, too, with flying colors.

This will only improve the Pakistani resolve to fight extremism and terrorism.

QUESTION: Has President Karzai spoken to Musharraf (OFF-MIKE)?

DURRANI: I'm not sure, because I've not been in the office, so I've not been following who all have called him.

I'm sure he would have. He's just seen him.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

END


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