A Conversation With Benazir Bhutto

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Council on Foreign Relations
Wednesday, August 15, 2007; 12:00 AM

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RICHARD N. HAASS: Good afternoon and welcome to a special meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations. It's special because it's August -- (laughter) -- and we try not to do too many meetings in August. It's also special because of the subject and our speaker here today, the former prime minister of Pakistan.

Our timing is good. This week marks the 60th anniversary of Pakistan. And our timing is good for another reason, which is, Pakistan has been, is and, I would predict, will be much in the news for days, weeks, months and longer to come.

It's hard to imagine someone better placed to speak about the current situation in Pakistan than Benazir Bhutto. She was born into one of Pakistan's leading political families. She was educated at both Harvard and Oxford. And -- full confession -- let me say that she and I met some -- at the risk of being less than gallant -- 30 years ago or so at Oxford. We would have met even earlier than that, at Harvard, except she got accepted and I did not. (Laughter.) And of such things history is made. (Laughter.) I'm almost over it, by the way. (Laughter.)

And Benazir Bhutto has twice been prime minister of her country, from 1988 to 1990, as well as from 1993 to 1996. And now and before, her fans and her critics alike, I believe, would agree that she has been an important -- indeed, critical -- voice in that country's trajectory, regardless of her physical location. It's been a number of years -- a year or so? -- since she has --

BENAZIR BHUTTO: Eight years.

HAASS: -- eight years since she's been able to be in her country. And I expect one of the things we will talk about is when that situation is likely to change.

The way we are going to do it today is, Ms. Bhutto will speak for about 10 minutes. You will hear her voice. Then you will hear for a few minutes our voices, and then we will reserve the bulk of the time this afternoon to hear your voice, any comments or, more likely, questions you have.

We've also already begun collecting questions from our national members who are wired into this event by the wonders of modern technology.

As you no doubt notice, because you are here, we started approximately 30 minutes earlier than we normally start. And in the political or institutional equivalent of the theory of the conservation of time, we will end 30 minutes earlier than usual, so those of you catching the Jitney to the Hamptons will not be delayed. (Laughter.)

It is, for me, a personal pleasure to welcome back to the Council on Foreign Relations an old friend of mine and someone who is familiar to many of you in this room and knows well this organization, the former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. (Applause.)


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