Pakistan grieves Benazir Bhutto, 10 years after assassination

People gather near the shrine of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto to mark her death anniversary in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 27 December 2017
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Pakistan grieves Benazir Bhutto, 10 years after assassination

KARACHI: Thousands of mourners visited the shrine of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto Wednesday as the country marked 10 years since her assassination, with her killers yet to face justice.
An estimated 20,000 people gathered at the shrine in Garhi Khuda Baksh in the Bhutto family stronghold of Sindh province, television images showed.
They came to pay their respects to the charismatic politician, who was the first woman to lead a Muslim country and a darling of the West.
“I feel we have become orphans after her martyrdom,” mourner Allah Varayo, 45, told AFP by telephone from the shrine. Others waved flags in the black, red and green of Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as well as photographs of the slain leader.
“I could see more vigour among the people, who have come in larger numbers than the previous years,” said Ahsan Junejo, a resident of the Bhutto’s home town Larkana near the shrine.
Bhutto, a two-time prime minister, was contesting a third election when she was assassinated in a gun and suicide attack at a rally in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, 2007.
Her death plunged Pakistan into political uncertainty and street violence and shocked the world.
Former president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf is alleged to have been part of a broad conspiracy to have Bhutto, his political rival, killed before elections.
He has been charged with the murder but has denied the allegation, and remains in self-imposed exile in Dubai. Earlier this year a Pakistani court declared him a “fugitive” in the case.
“Murderer, murderer, Musharraf, murderer!” Bhutto’s son Bilawal, chairman of the PPP, chanted along with the crowd at the shrine Wednesday, an unusual expression of mass defiance against the military.
Musharraf’s government blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.
In 2010 a UN report accused Musharraf’s government of failing to give Bhutto adequate protection and said her death could have been prevented.
To this day just two people have been convicted of the assassination — policemen accused of “mishandling” the crime scene.
Five alleged militants accused of being involved in the killing were cleared earlier this year, though they remain behind bars for now.
The unanswered questions surrounding the assassination have prompted a flood of conspiracy theories.
“There are theories only, and even after 10 years we don’t know who was behind the murder,” Muqtida Mansoor, a political analyst, told AFP.


4 Democratic women of color slam Trump for ‘bigoted remarks’

Updated 16 July 2019
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4 Democratic women of color slam Trump for ‘bigoted remarks’

WASHINGTON: Defiant in the face of widespread censure, President Donald Trump escalated his demand for four Democratic congresswomen of color to leave the US “right now,” stoking the discord that helped send him to the White House and claiming “many people agree with me.”
The four lawmakers fired back, condemning what they called “xenophobic bigoted remarks” and renewing calls for Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings.
Trump had called on the four to “go back” to their “broken and crime-infested” countries in tweets that have been widely denounced as racist . His remarks were directed at Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are American citizens, and three of the four were born in the US
The episode served notice that Trump is willing to again rely on incendiary rhetoric on issues of race and immigration to preserve his political base in the leadup to the 2020 election. He shrugged off the criticism.
“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said Monday at the White House. “A lot of people love it, by the way.”
At the Capitol, there was near unanimous condemnation from Democrats and a rumble of discontent from a subset of Republicans, but notably not from the party’s congressional leaders.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said Trump’s campaign slogan truly means he wants to “make America white again,” announced Monday that the House would vote on a resolution condemning his new comments . The resolution “strongly condemns” Trump’s “racist comments” and says they “have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
In response, Trump tweeted anew Tuesday about the four congresswomen: “Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said? Because they are the Radical Left, and the Democrats are afraid to take them on. Sad!“
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s White House nominee in 2012 and now one of the president’s most vocal GOP critics, said Monday that Trump’s comments were “destructive, demeaning, and disunifying.”
Trump dug in. “If you’re not happy in the US, if you’re complaining all the time, you can leave, you can leave right now,” he said.
His words, which evoked the trope of telling black people to go back to Africa, may have been partly meant to widen the divides within the House Democratic caucus, which has been riven by internal debate over how best to oppose his policies. And while Trump’s attacks brought Democrats together in defense of their colleagues, his allies noted he was also having some success in making the progressive lawmakers the face of their party.
The Republican president questioned whether Democrats should “want to wrap” themselves around this group of four people as he recited a list of the quartet’s most controversial statements.
At a news conference with her three colleagues, Pressley referred to Trump as “the occupant of our White House” instead of president.
“He does not embody the grace, the empathy, the compassion, the integrity that that office requires and that the American people deserve,” she said, encouraging people “not take the bait.” Pressley said Trump’s comments were “a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people” — prescription drug prices, affordable housing, health care.”
Omar, a naturalized US citizen born in Somalia, accused him of “openly violating” the Constitution and sounded the call for impeachment proceedings.
Ocasio-Cortez said Trump “does not know how to defend his policies and so what he does is attack us personally.”
The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, said his party would also try to force a vote in the GOP-controlled chamber.
Trump, who won the presidency in 2016 in part by energizing disaffected voters with inflammatory racial rhetoric, made clear he has no intention of backing away from that strategy in 2020.
“The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four ‘progressives,’ but now they are forced to embrace them,” he tweeted Monday afternoon. “That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!“
Trump has faced few consequences for such attacks in the past. They typically earn him cycles of wall-to-wall media attention. He is wagering that his most steadfast supporters will be energized by the controversy as much, or if not more so, than the opposition.
The president has told aides that he was giving voice to what many of his supporters believe — that they are tired of people, including immigrants, disrespecting their country, according to three Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Trump singled out Omar, in particular, accusing her of having “hatred” for Israel and expressing “love” for “enemies like Al-Qaeda.”
“These are people that, in my opinion, hate our country,” he said.
Omar, in an interview, once laughed about how a college professor had spoken of Al-Qaeda with an intensity she said was not used to describe “America,” “England” or “The Army.”
Republicans largely trod carefully with their responses.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president who golfed with him over the weekend, advised him to “aim higher” during an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” even as he accused the four Democrats of being “anti-Semitic” and “anti-American.”
Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said “I don’t think that the president’s intent in any way is racist,” pointing to Trump’s decision to choose Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan, as his transportation secretary.
Chao is one of the few minorities among the largely white and male aides in high-profile roles in Trump’s administration. She is the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who declined comment Monday on Trump’s attacks.
Among the few GOP lawmakers commenting Monday, Rep. Pete Olson of Texas said Trump’s tweets were “not reflective of the values of the 1,000,000+ people” in his district. “I urge our President immediately disavow his comments,” he wrote.
In an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from February 2017, half of Americans said the mixing of culture and values from around the world is an important part of America’s identity as a nation. About a third said the same of a culture established by early European immigrants.
But partisans in that poll were divided over these aspects of America’s identity. About two-thirds of Democrats but only about a third of Republicans thought the mixing of world cultures was important to the country’s identity. By comparison, nearly half of Republicans but just about a quarter of Democrats saw the culture of early European immigrants as important to the nation.