Election 2002 , Return to Pakistan

  1. Election 2002

The Bhutto-led PPP secured the highest number of votes (28.4%) and won 80 seats (23%) in the national assembly during the October 2002 general elections. The  PML-N managed to win only 18 seats. Some of the elected candidates of PPP formed a faction of their own, calling it PPP-Patriots, which was being led by Faisal Saleh Hayat, the former leader of Bhutto-led PPP. They later formed a coalition government with Musharraf’s party, PML-Q.

  1. Return to Pakistan:
  • Possible Deal with the Musharraf Government

In mid-2002 Musharraf implemented a two-term limit on prime ministers. Both Bhutto and Musharraf’s other chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, had already served two terms as prime minister.

In July 2007, some of Bhutto’s frozen funds were released. Bhutto continued to face significant charges of corruption. In an 8 August 2007 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Bhutto revealed the meeting focused on her desire to return to Pakistan for the 2008 elections, and for Musharraf to retain the Presidency with Bhutto as Prime Minister. On 29 August 2007, Bhutto announced that Musharraf would step down as chief of the army. On 1 September 2007, Bhutto vowed to return to Pakistan “very soon”, regardless of whether or not she reached a power-sharing deal with Musharraf before then.  On 17 September 2007, Bhutto accused Musharraf’s allies of pushing Pakistan into crisis by their refusal to permit democratic reforms and power-sharing. A nine-member panel of Supreme Court judges deliberated on six petitions (including one from Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest Islamic group) asserting that Musharraf should be disqualified from contending for the presidency of Pakistan. Bhutto stated that her party could join one of the opposition groups, potentially that of Nawaz Sharif. Attorney-general Malik Mohammed Qayyum stated that pendent elite the Election Commission was “reluctant” to announce the schedule for the presidential vote. Farhatullah Babar of Bhutto’s party stated that the Constitution of Pakistan could bar Musharraf from being elected again because he was already chief of the army: “As Gen. Musharraf was disqualified from contesting for President, he has prevailed upon the Election Commission to arbitrarily and illegally tamper with the Constitution of Pakistan.”

My dialogue with Musharraf aims to move the country forward from a dictatorship that has failed to stop the tribal areas from becoming havens for terrorists. The extremists are even spreading their tentacles into Pakistan’s cities.

— Benazir Bhutto, writing for The Washington Post

Musharraf prepared to switch to a strictly civilian role by resigning as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He still faced other legal obstacles to running for re-election. On 2 October 2007, Musharraf named Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani vice-chief of the army starting 8 October 2007, so that with the intent that if Musharraf won the presidency and resigned his military post, Kayani would become head of the army. Meanwhile, Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed stated that officials agreed to grant Benazir Bhutto amnesty from pending corruption charges. She has emphasised a smooth transition and return to civilian rule and asked Pervez Musharraf to shed his uniform. On 5 October 2007, Musharraf signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance, giving amnesty to Bhutto and other political leaders—except exiled former premier Nawaz Sharif—in all court cases against them, including all corruption charges. The Ordinance was signed a day before Musharraf faced the crucial presidential poll. Both Bhutto’s opposition party, the PPP, and the ruling PML-Q, were involved in negotiations beforehand about the deal. In return, Bhutto and the PPP agreed not to boycott the Presidential election.

On 6 October 2007, Musharraf won a parliamentary election to become President. However, the Supreme Court ruled that no winner could be officially proclaimed until it finished deciding whether it was legal for Musharraf to run for President while an Army General. Bhutto’s PPP party did not join the other opposition parties’ boycott of the election, but did abstain from voting. Later, Bhutto demanded security coverage on-par with the President’s. Bhutto also contracted foreign security firms for her protection.

·                     Return to Pakistan and the Assassination Attempt

Bhutto was well aware of the risk to her own life that might result from her return from exile to campaign for the leadership position. In an interview on 28 September 2007, with reporter Wolf Blitzer of CNN, she readily admitted the possibility of attack on herself.

After eight years in exile in Dubai and London, Bhutto returned to Karachi on 18 October 2007, to prepare for the 2008 national elections.

En route to a rally in Karachi on 18 October 2007, two explosions occurred shortly after Bhutto had landed and left Jinnah International Airport. She was not injured but the explosions, later found to be a suicide-bomb attack, killed 136 people and injured at least 450. The dead included at least 50 of the security guards from her PPP who had formed a human chain around her truck to keep potential bombers away, as well as six police officers. A number of senior officials were injured. Bhutto, after nearly ten hours of the parade through Karachi, ducked back down into the steel command center to remove her sandals from her swollen feet, moments before the bomb went off. She was escorted unharmed from the scene.

Bhutto later claimed that she had warned the Pakistani government that suicide bomb squads would target her upon her return to Pakistan and that the government had failed to act. She was careful not to blame Pervez Musharraf for the attacks, accusing instead “certain individuals within the government who abuse their positions, who abuse their powers” to advance the cause of Islamic militants. Shortly after the attempt on her life, Bhutto wrote a letter to Musharraf naming four persons whom she suspected of carrying out the attack. Those named  included Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, a rival PML-Q politician and chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Hamid Gul, former director of the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another of the country’s intelligence agencies. All those named are close associates of General Musharraf. Bhutto had a long history of accusing parts of the government, particularly Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agencies, of working against her and her party because they oppose her liberal, secular agenda. Bhutto claimed that the ISI has for decades backed militant Islamic groups in Kashmir and in Afghanistan. She was protected by her vehicle and a “human cordon” of supporters who had anticipated suicide attacks and formed a chain around her to prevent potential bombers from getting near her. The total number of injured, according to PPP sources, stood at 1000, with at least 160 dead (The New York Times claims 134 dead and about 450 injured).

A few days later, Bhutto’s lawyer Senator Farooq H. Naik said he received a letter threatening to kill his client.

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Early 2000s in Exile

  1. Early 2000s in Exile

Once a populist, by the end of the 1990s, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had become widely unpopular, and following the military coup, Sharif’s credibility, image and career were destroyed by Musharraf who formed the PML-Q in order to banish the former prime minister’s party support across the country. The PML-Q consisted of those who were initially part of Sharif’s party but then switched to Musharraf to avoid persecution and jail. Year 2000 brought positive change for Bhutto, who became widely unpopular in Pakistan in 1996.

In the 2000s, following the declassification of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission papers and other secret documents from the 1970s, Bhutto’s support in Pakistan began to grow. Her image became more positive and the PPP seemed likely to return to government, perhaps as soon the 2002 elections. Amid fears of Bhutto’s return, a threatened Musharraf released from imprisonment many members of the liberal-secular force MQM who had held been as political prisoners. Musharraf saw MQM as a vital political weapon to hold back the PPP. But MQM support was limited to Karachi at the time, and very lacking in the urban areas of Sindh, which remained a critical electoral threat for Musharraf. Therefore, in 2002 President Musharraf amended Pakistan’s constitution to ban prime ministers from serving more than two terms. This disqualified Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from holding the office again and was widely considered to attack them directly.

While she lived in Dubai Bhutto cared for her three children and her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She also travelled to give lectures in the U.S. and kept in touch with PPP supporters. She and the children were reunited with her husband in December 2004 after more than five years.

At the request of Pakistan, Interpol issued a request in 2006 for the arrest of Bhutto and her husband on corruption charges. The Bhuttos questioned the legality of the requests in a letter to Interpol. On 27 January 2007, she was invited by the United States to speak to President George W. Bush and Congressional and State Department officials. Bhutto appeared as a panellist on the BBC TV programme Question Time in the United Kingdom in March 2007. She also appeared on the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight on several occasions. She rebuked comments made by Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq in May 2007 regarding the knighthood of Salman Rushdie, noting that he was calling for the assassination of foreign citizens.

In mid-2007, Bhutto declared her intention to return to Pakistan by the end of the year. But Musharraf said he would not allow her to enter the country before general election, scheduled for late 2007 or early 2008. Still, speculation circulated that she might have been offered the office of Prime Minister again.  At the same time, the US appeared to be pushing for a deal in which Musharraf would remain president, but step down as head of the military, and either Bhutto or one of her nominees became prime minister.

On 11 July 2007, in an article about the possible aftermath of the Red Mosque incident, the Associated Press quoted Bhutto saying “I’m glad there was no cease-fire with the militants in the mosque because ceasefires simply embolden the militants.”

This assessment was received with dismay in Pakistan, as reportedly hundreds of young students had burned to death. The remains were untraceable and cases were being heard in the Pakistani supreme court, as a missing persons issue. This and subsequent support for Musharraf led Elder Bhutto’s comrades like Khar to criticise her publicly. Bhutto however advised Musharraf in an early phase of the latter’s quarrel with the Chief Justice, to restore him. Her PPP did not capitalise on its influential CEC statesman, Aitzaz Ahsan, the chief Barrister for the Chief Justice, in successful restoration. Rather, he was seen as a rival of Bhutto, and isolated on that issue with PPP.

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Corruption

  1. Corruption
  • Charges of Corruption

After President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Bhutto’s first government on 6 August 1990 because of corruption allegations, the government of Pakistan directed its intelligence agencies to investigate. Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in the ensuing elections and intensified prosecution investigation of Bhutto. Pakistani embassies through western Europe—in France, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and Britain—were directed to investigate. Bhutto and her husband Zardari faced several legal proceedings, including a charge in Switzerland of money-laundering through Swiss banks.  In 1994, yet another Zardari offshore company, M.S. Capricorn Trading, was created in the British Virgin Islands. Earlier companies  created were the  Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) headquartered in Switzerland and its then subsidiary Cotecna, and the two British Virgin Island companies; Bomer Finances Inc and Nassam Overseas Inc. were used to receive kickbacks. While never convicted, Zardari spent eight years in prison on similar corruption charges. Released on bail in 2004, Zardari hinted that while in prison he was tortured; human rights groups have supported his claim that his rights were violated.

A 1998 New York Times investigative report claims that Pakistani investigators have documents that outline a network of bank accounts, all linked to the family’s lawyer (Jens Schlegelmilch) in Switzerland, naming Asif Zardari as principal shareholder. According to the NYT article, documents released by the French authorities indicate that Zardari offered exclusive rights to Dassault, a French aircraft manufacturer, to replace the aging fighter jets of the Air Force in exchange for a 5% commission to be paid to a Swiss corporation he controlled. The article also said that a Dubai company received an exclusive license to import gold into Pakistan, for which it paid more than $10 million into Zardari’s Dubai-based Citibank accounts. The owner of the Dubai company; Razzak Yaqub’s company, A.R.Y. International Exchange. denied making the payments and said the documents were forged.

Bhutto maintained that the charges against her and her husband were purely political. A report by a Pakistani auditor-general (AGP) supports Bhutto’s claim. It presents information suggesting that Benazir Bhutto was ousted from power in 1990 as the result of a witch hunt approved by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The AGP report says Khan illegally paid legal advisers 28 million rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990–92.

Yet the assets held by Bhutto and her husband continue to be scrutinised and to generate speculation. Prosecutors have alleged that the couple’s Swiss bank accounts contain £740 million. Zardari also bought a neo-Tudor mansion and estate worth over £4 million in Surrey, England. Pakistani investigations have tied other overseas properties to Zardari’s family. These include a $2.5 million manor in Normandy owned by Zardari’s parents, who had only modest assets when he his married. Bhutto has denied owning substantive overseas assets.

Despite numerous investigations, court cases and charges of corruption registered against Bhutto by Nawaz Sharif between 1996 and 1999 and Pervez Musharraf from 1999 to 2008, she has yet to be convicted in any case, after twelve years of investigation. The Pakistani cases were withdrawn by the government of Pakistan after the return to power of Bhutto’s PPP in 2008. In this hideous story PM Yousaf Raza Gillani had to leave the office for not writing letter to Swiss authorities by not following SC instructions.

·                     Panama Papers disclosed in 2001

Bhutto was a client of Mossack Fonseca, whose customer records were disclosed in the Panama Papers leak 7 September 2001 London law firm Richard Rooney and Co told MF-BVI (Mossack Fonseca British virgin island) to create Petroline International Inc in the British Virgin Islands. Petroline International Inc is owned by Bhutto, her nephew Hassan Ali Jaffery Bhutto, and her aide and head of security Rehman Malik, who later became a Senator and Interior Minister in the government of Yousaf Raza Gillani. Mossack Fonseca had declined to do business with Bhutto’s first company, similarly-named Petrofine FZC, established in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE). in 2000. Petrofine was “politically sensitive” they said, and “declined to accept Mrs Bhutto as a client.”

In 2006, the Pakistani NAB accused Bhutto, Malik and Ali Jaffery of owning Petrofine. Bhutto and the PPP denied this. In April 2006 an NAB court froze assets owned in Pakistan and elsewhere by Bhutto and Zardari. The $1.5 billion in assets were acquired through corrupt practices, the NAB said, and noting that the 1997 Swiss charges of criminal money-laundering were still in litigation.

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Second Term as Leader of the Opposition, 1996–99

  1. Second Term as Leader of the Opposition, 1996–99

Benazir Bhutto left for Dubai soon afterwards 1997 parliamentary elections, taking her three children with her, while her husband was set for trial.

Bhutto acted as Leader of the Opposition despite living in Dubai, and worked to enhance her public image while supporting public reforms. In 1998, soon after India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests, Bhutto publicly called for Pakistan to begin its own nuclear testing programme, rallying and pressuring Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to make this decision. Bhutto learned from sources close to Sharif that he was reluctant to carry out nuclear testing. Finally, after the public aggressiveness towards carrying out nuclear testing, Nawaz authorised and ordered the scientists from PAEC and KRL to perform the tests.

However, 1999 would brought dramatic changes for Bhutto as well as the entire country. Bhutto criticized Sharif for violating the Armed Forces’s code of conduct when he illegally appointed General Pervez Musharraf as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan also criticised the Prime Minister. In early 1999 Sharif enjoyed widespread popularity as he tried to make peace with India. However, all this changed when Pakistan became enmeshed with an unpopular and undeclared war with India. Known as the Kargil war, the conflict brought international embarrassment upon Pakistan, and the prime minister’s prestige and public image were destroyed in a matter of two months. Bhutto criticised the prime minister, and called the Kargil War, “Pakistan’s greatest blunder”.

Ali Kuli Khan, Director-General of ISI at that time, also publicly criticised the prime minister and labelled the fighting “a disaster bigger than East Pakistan”. Religious and liberal forces joined Bhutto in condemning Sharif for the conflict, and she made a tremendous effort to destroy his prestige and credibility, says historian William Dalrymple. Then in August 1999, an event completely shattered the remains of Sharif’s image and support. Two Indian Air Force MiG-21 fighters shot down a Pakistani Navy reconnaissance plane, killing 16 naval officers. Bhutto criticised Sharif for having failed to gather any support from the navy. The Armed Forces began to criticise the prime minister for causing the military disasters. Bhutto’s approval ratings were favourable and the Armed Forces chiefs remained sympathetic towards Bhutto as she continued to criticise the now-unpopular Sharif.

Bhutto was highly confident that her party would secure an overwhelming victory in the coming Senate elections in 1999, due to the prime minister’s widening unpopularity. Controversially, when the Pakistani armed forced initiated a coup d’état, Bhutto neither criticised nor issued any comment, remaining silent on supporting General Musharraf, as Dalrymple notes. She continued to support Musharraf’s coordinated arrests of the supporters and staff of Sharif. Musharraf destroyed Sharif’s political presence in Sindh and Kashmir provinces. Many political offices in Sharif’s constituency or district were forcibly closed and many sympathisers were jailed. In 2002, Bhutto and the MQM made a side-line deal with Musharraf that allows both to continue underground political activities in Sindh and Kashmir, and to fill the gap after Musharraf had destroyed Sharif’s presence in the both provinces. The effects of the arrests was seen clearly in the 2008 parliamentary elections, when Nawaz Sharif failed to secure support back in those two provinces.

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Second Dismissal

16. Second Dismissal

In spite of her tough rhetoric to subdue her political rivals and neighbouring India and Afghanistan, the Bhutto government’s corruption heightened and exceeded its limits during her second regime; the most notable figures among those suspect were Asif Ali Zardari and Admiral Menstrual Haq. Soon after the death of her younger brother, Bhutto widely became unpopular and public opinion turned against her government.

On 20 July 1996, Qazi Hussain Ahmed of Jamaat e Islami announced to start protests against government alleging corruption. Qazi Hussain resigned from senate on 27 September and announced to start long march against Benazir government. Protest started on 27 October 1996 by Jamaat e Islami and opposition parties. On 4 November 1996, Bhutto’s government was dismissed by President Leghari primarily because of corruption, who used the Eighth Amendment discretionary powers to dissolve the government. Benazir was surprised when she discovered that it was not the military who had dismissed her but her own hand-picked puppet President who had used the power to dismiss her. She turned to the Supreme Court hoping for gaining Leghari’s actions unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court justified and affirmed President Leghari’s dismissal in a 6–1 ruling. Many military leaders who were close to Prime minister rather than the President, did not wanted Benazir Bhutto’s government to fall, as they resisted the Nawaz Sharif’s conservatism. When President Leghari, through public media, discovered that General Kakar (Chief of Army Staff), General Khattak (Chief of Air Staff), and Admiral Haq (Chief of Naval Staff) had been backing Benazir to come back in the government; President Leghari aggressively responded by dismissing the entire military leadership by bringing the pro-western democracy views but neutral military leadership that would supervise the upcoming elections. This was the move that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (elected in 1997) did repeat in 1999, when Nawaz Sharif had deposed General Jehangir Karamat after developing serious disagreements on the issues of national security.

Criticism against Benazir Bhutto came from the powerful political spectrum of the Punjab Province and the Kashmir who opposed Benazir Bhutto, particularly the nationalisation issue that led the lost of Punjab’s privatised industries under the hands of her government. Bhutto blamed this opposition for the destabilisation of Pakistan. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Jehangir Karamat at one point intervened in the conflict between President and the Prime Minister, and urged Benazir Bhutto to focus on good governance and her ambitious programme of making the country into a welfare state, but the misconduct of her cabinet ministers continued and the corruption which she was unable to struck it down with a full force. Her younger brother’s death had devastating effect on Benazir’s party and policies. At one point, Chairman of Joint Chiefs General Jehangir Karamat noted that:

In my opinion, if we have to repeat of past events then we must understand that Military leaders can pressure only up to a point. Beyond that their own position starts getting undermined because the military is after all is a mirror image of the society from which it is drawn.

— General Jehangir Karamat commenting on Benazir’s dismissal

Soon after her government was ended, the Naval intelligence led the arrest of Chief of Naval Staff and acquitted him with a running court-martial sat up at the Naval Judge Advocate General Corps led by active duty 4-star admiral. Many of her government members and cabinet ministers including her spouse were thrown in jails and the trials were sat up at the civilian Supreme Court. Faced with serious charges by the Nawaz Sharif’s government, Bhutto flew to Dubai with her three young children while her spouse was thrown in jail. Shortly after rising to power in a 1999 military coup, General Pervez Musharraf characterized Bhutto’s terms as an “era of democracy”.

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Coup d’état Attempt

14. Coup d’état Attempt

In 1995, Benazir Bhutto’s government survived an attempted coup d’état hatched by renegade military officers of the Pakistan Army. The culprit and ringleader of the coup was a junior level officer, Major-General Zahirul Islam Abbasi, who had radical views. Others included Brigadier-Generals Mustansir Billa, and Qari Saifullah of Pakistan Army. The secret ISI learned of this plot and tipped off the Pakistan Army and at midnight before the coup could take place, it was thwarted. The coup was exposed by Ali Kuli Khan, the Military Intelligence chief, and Jehangir Karamat, Chief of General Staff. The Military Intelligence led the arrest of 36 army officers and 20 civilians in Rawalpindi; General Ali Kuli Khan reported to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto early morning and submitted his report on the coup. After learning this, Benazir was angered and dismayed, therefore a full-fledged running court martial was formed by Benazir Bhutto. Prime Minister Benazir issued arrests of numbers of religiously conservatives leaders and therefore denied the amnesty and clemency calls made by the Army officers. By 1996, all of the dissident officers were either jailed or shot dead by the Pakistan Army and a report was submitted to the Prime minister. General Kuli Khan and General Karamat received wide appreciation from the prime minister and were decorated with the civilian decorations and award by her.

15. Death of Younger Brother

In 1996, the Bhutto family suffered another tragedy in Sindh Province, Benazir Bhutto’s stronghold and political rival. Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir’s younger brother, was controversially and publicly shot down in a police encounter in Karachi. Since 1989, Murtaza and Benazir had a series of disagreements regarding the PPP’s policies and Murtaza’s opposition towards Benazir’s operations against the Urdu-speaking class. Murtaza also developed serious disagreement with Benazir’s husband, Zardari, and unsuccessfully attempted to remove his influence in the government. Benazir and Murtaza’s mother, Nusrat, sided with Murtaza which also dismayed the daughter. In a controversial interview, Benazir declared that Pakistan only needed one Bhutto, not two, though she denied giving or passing any comments. Her younger brother increasingly made it difficult for her to run the government after he raised voices against Benazir’s alleged corruption. Alone in Sindh, Benazir lost the support of the province to her younger brother. At the political campaign, Murtaza demanded party elections inside the PPP, which according to Zardari, Benazir would have lost due to Nusrat backing Murtaza and many workers inside the party being willing to see Murtaza as the country’s Prime minister as well as the chair of the party. More problems arose when Abdullah Shah Lakiyari, Chief Minister of Sindh, and allegedly her spouse created disturbances in Murtaza’s political campaign. On 20 September 1996, in a controversial police encounter, Murtaza Bhutto was shot dead near his residence along with six other party activists. As the news reached all of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto hurriedly returned to Karachi, and an emergency was proclaimed in the entire province. Benazir Bhutto’s limo was stoned by angered PPP members when she tried to visit Murtaza’s funeral ceremonies. Her brother’s death had crushed their mother, and she was immediately admitted to the local hospital after learning that her son had been killed.

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Policy on Taliban

  1. Policy on Taliban

1996 was crucial for Bhutto’s policy on Afghanistan when Pakistan-backed extremely religious group Taliban took power in Kabul in September. She continued her father’s policy on Afghanistan taking aggressive measures to curb the anti-Pakistan sentiments in Afghanistan. During this time, many in the international community at the time, including the United States government, viewed the Taliban as a group that could stabilise Afghanistan and enable trade access to the Central Asian Republics, according to author Steve Coll.

He claims that her government provided military and financial support for the Taliban, even sending a small unit of the Pakistan Army into Afghanistan. Benazir had approved the appointment of Lieutenant-General Naseem Rana who she affectionately referred to him as “Georgy Zhukov”; and had reported to her while providing strategic support to Taliban. During her regime, Benazir Bhutto’s government had controversially supported the hardline Taliban, and many of her government officials were providing financial assistance to the Taliban. Fazal-ur-Rehman, a right-wing cleric, had a traditionally deep influence on Bhutto as he convinced and later assisted her to help the regime of Taliban she established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In a reference written by American scholar, Steve Coll in Ghost Wars, he dryly put it: “Benazir Bhutto was suddenly the matron of a new Afghan faction—the Taliban.”

Under her government, Pakistan had recognised the Taliban regime as legitimate government in Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to open an embassy in Islamabad. In 1996, the newly appointed Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef presented her diplomatic credentials However, in 2007, she took an anti-Taliban stance, and condemned terrorist acts allegedly committed by the Taliban and their supporters.

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