Pakistan’s President Zardari Gets Fatwa Over Gorgeous Sarah

Ha… Muslims issue Fatwa over Asif Ali Zardari remarks about Palin at his meeting with her…

After the flirtation came the fatwa.

With some overly friendly comments to Gov. Sarah Palin at the United Nations, Asif Ali Zardari has succeeded in uniting one of Pakistan’s hard-line mosques and its feminists after a few weeks in office.

A radical Muslim prayer leader said the president shamed the nation for “indecent gestures, filthy remarks, and repeated praise of a non-Muslim lady wearing a short skirt.”

Feminists charged that once again a male Pakistani leader has embarrassed the country with sexist remarks. And across the board, the Pakistani press has shown disapproval.

What did President Zardari do to draw such scorn? It might have been the “gorgeous” compliment he gave Ms. Palin when the two met at the UN last week during her meet-and-greet with foreign leaders ahead of Thursday’s vice presidential debate with opponent Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

But the comments from Zardari didn’t end there. He went on to tell Palin: “Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you.”

“You are so nice,” replied the Republican vice presidential hopeful, smiling. “Thank you.”

But what may have really caused Pakistan’s radical religious leaders to stew was his comment that he might “hug” Palin if his handler insisted.

Though the fatwa, issued days after the Sept. 24 exchange, carries little weight among most Pakistanis, it’s indicative of the anger felt by Pakistan’s increasingly assertive conservatives who consider physical contact and flattery between a man and woman who aren’t married to each other distasteful. Though fatwas, or religious edicts, can range from advice on daily life to death sentences, this one does not call for any action or violence.

Last year, the mosque that issued the fatwa, Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, condemned the former tourism minister, Nilofar Bahktiar, after she was photographed being hugged by a male parachuting coach in France.

Clerics declared the act a “great sin” and, though less vocal about it, similar sentiments were shared by many among Pakistani’s middle classes. The Red Mosque gained international infamy in July 2007 after becoming the focal point of a Pakistan Army operation.

For the feminists it’s less about cozying up to a non-Muslim woman and more about the sexist remarks by Zardari.

“As a Pakistani and as a woman, it was shameful and unacceptable. He was looking upon her merely as a woman and not as a politician in her own right,” says Tahira Abdullah, a member of the Women’s Action Forum.

Dismissing the mosque’s concerns as “ranting,” she, however, adds: “He should show some decorum – if he loved his wife so much as to press for a United Nations investigation into her death, he should behave like a mourning widower,” in reference to former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto, a feminist icon for millions of Pakistani women.

The theme of decorum was picked up by English daily Dawn, whose editorial asked: “Why do our presidents always end up embarrassing us internationally by making sexist remarks?”

The incident bears some resemblance to yet another charm offensive by a senior Pakistani politician. Marcus Mabry’s biography of Condoleezza Rice includes a passage in which he relates a meeting between former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Ms. Rice, in which Mr. Aziz was said to have stared deeply into the secretary of State’s eyes and to have told her he could “conquer any woman in two minutes.”

There are some, however, who see things as having been blown out of proportion.

“It was a sweet and innocuous exchange played as an international incident on Pakistani and rascally Indian front-pages with one English daily [writing] it in a scarlet box, half-implying Mrs. Palin would ditch Alaska’s First Dude and become Pakistan’s First Babe. As if,” wrote columnist Fasih Ahmed in the Daily Times.

For most, it will soon be forgotten in a country dealing with terrorism, rising food prices, and a struggling economy. “We don’t care that much how they [politicians] behave – what really matters is keeping prices down,” says Nazeera Bibi, a maid in Lahore.

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CIA Asserts Al Qaeda Behind Bhutto Assassination

Despite media opinion and the average Pakistanian citizen’s opinion, the CIA has asserted that based on intelligence, Al Qaeda behind Bhutto Assassinations… Al Qaeda being behind the assassination is not a far fetched idea, as they foresaw Bhutto’s political stance as a direct threat.

The CIA has concluded that members of al-Qaeda and allies of Pakistani tribal leader Baitullah Mehsud were responsible for last month’s assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and that they also stand behind a new wave of violence threatening that country’s stability, the agency’s director, Michael V. Hayden, said in an interview.

Offering the most definitive public assessment by a U.S. intelligence official, Hayden said Bhutto was killed by fighters allied with Mehsud, a tribal leader in northwestern Pakistan, with support from al-Qaeda’s terrorist network. That view mirrors the Pakistani government’s assertions.

The same alliance between local and international terrorists poses a grave risk to the government of President Pervez Musharraf, a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, Hayden said in 45-minute interview with The Washington Post. “What you see is, I think, a change in the character of what’s going on there,” he said. “You’ve got this nexus now that probably was always there in latency but is now active: a nexus between al-Qaeda and various extremist and separatist groups.”

Hayden added, “It is clear that their intention is to continue to try to do harm to the Pakistani state as it currently exists.”

Days after Bhutto’s Dec. 27 assassination in the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistani officials released intercepted communications between Mehsud and his supporters in which the tribal leader praised the killing and, according to the officials, appeared to take credit for it. Pakistani and U.S. officials have declined to comment on the origin of that intercept, but the administration has until now been cautious about publicly embracing the Pakistani assessment.

Widespread suspicion of Musharraf
Many Pakistanis have voiced suspicions that Musharraf’s government played a role in Bhutto’s assassination, and Bhutto’s family has alleged a wide conspiracy involving government officials. Hayden declined to discuss the intelligence behind the CIA’s assessment, which is at odds with that view and supports Musharraf’s assertions.

“This was done by that network around Baitullah Mehsud. We have no reason to question that,” Hayden said. He described the killing as “part of an organized campaign” that has included suicide bombings and other attacks on Pakistani leaders.

Some administration officials outside the agency who deal with Pakistani issues were less conclusive, with one calling the assertion “a very good assumption.”

One of the officials said there was no “incontrovertible” evidence to prove or rebut the assessment.

Al-Qaida rebuilding in region
Hayden made his statement shortly before a series of attacks occurred this week on Pakistani political figures and army units. Pakistani officials have blamed them on Mehsud’s forces and other militants. On Wednesday, a group of several hundred insurgents overran a military outpost in the province of South Waziristan, killing 22 government paramilitary troops. The daring daylight raid was carried out by rebels loyal to Mehsud, Pakistani authorities said.

For more than a year, U.S. officials have been nervously watching as al-Qaeda rebuilt its infrastructure in the rugged tribal regions along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, often with the help of local sympathizers.

In recent months, U.S. intelligence officials have said, the relationship between al-Qaeda and local insurgents has been strengthened by a common antipathy toward the pro-Western Musharraf government. The groups now share resources and training facilities and sometimes even plan attacks together, they said.

“We’ve always viewed that to be an ultimate danger to the United States,” Hayden said, “but now it appears that it is a serious base of danger to the current well-being of Pakistan.”

Policy hasn’t changed, Hayden says
Hayden’s anxieties about Pakistan’s stability are echoed by other U.S. officials who have visited Pakistan since Bhutto’s assassination. White House, intelligence and Defense Department officials have held a series of meetings to discuss U.S. options in the event that the current crisis deepens, including the possibility of covert action involving Special Forces.

Hayden declined to comment on the policy meetings but said that the CIA already was heavily engaged in the region and has not shifted its officers or changed its operations significantly since the crisis began.

“The Afghan-Pakistan border region has been an area of focus for this agency since about 11 o’clock in the morning of September 11, [2001], and I really mean this,” Hayden said. “We haven’t done a whole lot of retooling there in the last one week, one month, three months, six months and so on. This has been up there among our very highest priorities.”

Hayden said that the United States has “not had a better partner in the war on terrorism than the Pakistanis.” The turmoil of the past few weeks has only deepened that cooperation, he said, by highlighting “what are now even more clearly mutual and common interests.”

Hayden also acknowledged the difficulties — diplomatic and practical — involved in helping combat extremism in a country divided by ethnic, religious and cultural allegiances. “This looks simpler the further away you get from it,” he said. “And the closer you get to it, geography, history, culture all begin to intertwine and make it more complex.”

Regarding the public controversy over the CIA’s harsh interrogation of detainees at secret prisons, Hayden reiterated previous agency statements that lives were saved and attacks were prevented as a result of those interrogations.

He said he does not support proposals, put forward by some lawmakers in recent weeks, to require the CIA to abide by the Army Field Manual in conducting interrogations. The manual, adopted by the Defense Department, prohibits the use of many aggressive methods, including a simulated-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

“I would offer my professional judgment that that will make us less capable in gaining the information we need,” he said.

Staff writer Robin Wright and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Pakistanian officials have arrested a 15 year old who claims to have been part of the Al Qaeda assassination plot against Bhutto. The fact that Al Qaeda is relying on teenagers and women more and more shows their desperation.

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan —  A 15-year-old detained near the Afghan border has confessed to joining a team of assassins sent to kill Benazir Bhutto, officials said Saturday, announcing the first arrests in the case since the attack that killed the opposition leader.

Police also announced they had foiled new suicide attacks against the country’s Shiite minority.

Interior Secretary Kamal Shah confirmed the arrest of two people in the town of Dera Ismail Khan in North West Frontier province, and said one — a teenage boy — had confessed involvement in the Dec. 27 attack that killed Bhutto. He said interrogators were trying to get corroborating testimony from the other detainee before accepting the confession.

In the southern city of Karachi, meanwhile, the police chief said officers detained five men with explosives, detonators and a small quantity of cyanide intended for attacks on this week’s Shiite Muslim festival of Ashoura.

“With these arrests we have foiled major attacks,” said police chief Azhar Farouqi, adding that the militants may have wanted to put the cyanide into the municipal water supply.

Security officials elsewhere in the country said they had arrested at least 55 other terrorist suspects in a crackdown apparently sparked by a surge in rebel attacks along the restive border with Afghanistan and a spate of bombings targeting Shiites. /**/

The growing bloodshed has cast doubts on the ability of the security forces to maintain peace during the campaign for parliamentary elections on Feb. 18. It has also sparked calls from opposition politicians for President Pervez Musharraf to step down.

In North West Frontier province, a senior intelligence official said the 15-year-old suspect in the Bhutto assassination told investigators that a five-person squad was dispatched to Rawalpindi, where Bhutto was killed, by Baitullah Mehsud, a militant leader with strong ties to al-Qaida and an alliance with the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan.

The official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the boy was arrested Thursday and was also involved in a plot to attack Shiites during the Ashoura festival on Sunday.

Sunni extremists, who regard Shiites as heretics, often attack the community during Ashoura. On Thursday, 11 people died and 20 were injured in a suicide attack on a Shiite mosque in the northern city of Peshawar.

In Dera Ismail Khan, a town 170 miles southwest of Islamabad where the teenager was arrested, a district police commander said the suspect had made “a sensational disclosure.” The officer also asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

But Maulvi Mohammed Umar, a purported spokesman for Mehsud, dismissed the report. “It is just government propaganda … we have already clarified that we are not involved in the attack on Benazir Bhutto.”

The CIA concluded that Mehsud was behind Bhutto’s killing shortly after it occurred, an American intelligence official has said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Musharraf government fingered Mehsud for the former prime minister’s death in December, but some members of her political party and her family have questioned those assertions. There have been complaints that the government failed to provide her adequate security and vague allegations that elements within the government might have been involved in the assassination.

Bhutto died when an assassin fired at her and detonated an explosive vest as she was leaving an election campaign rally. The blast killed at least 20 other people and wounded scores more.

The death of Pakistan’s most popular opposition leader threw the country into turmoil and triggered riots that left more than 40 people dead. It forced the government to delay by six weeks parliamentary elections that had been set for Jan. 8.

Bhutto, who had returned to Pakistan in October after spending nearly eight years in exile, had vowed to support tough military measures against Islamic militants who have used the border areas as staging points for infiltration into Afghanistan.

Suspected Muslim militants shot and killed a top intelligence official in North West Frontier Province as he left a mosque after offering dawn prayers Sunday, local police officer Javed Khan said.

Nisar Ahmed, who was shot in Srekh village, headed the Inter-Services Intelligence agency’s section on security in the province, an official from the agency’s regional office said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the media.

Separately, the army said in a statement it had found 5.5 tons of explosives hidden in a mosque in the Swat Valley, an area in the north of the country that it recaptured from the militants in December.

Pakistan Descending Into Dismal Pit

A dark day in Pakistan with the terrorist assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto , who recently returned from exile. President Musharraf is taking the brunt of the public’s anger even though it is believed to be Islamic terrorist who executed the shooting and bombing.

The people of Pakistan need to get a grip and stop the rioting and protesting Musharraf and help the authorities apprehend those that worked with the suicide bomber. Enough with the sheltering of terrorists, aiding them, helping them move freely through your villages. It is time to bring them to justice.

These terrorists are killing your own people, stand up and fight the right enemy.

Do not disgrace her memory with this animal behavior, instead honor her by doing the right thing.

This is the second time Musharraf has face a large violent backlash, which could topple his government and allow nuclear arms to fall into terrorists hands, the unseen plan that the media does not report on.

Additionally this falls into the standard MO for al Qaeda to attack just before an election to try and influence it. In this case I guess their thinking is that Musharraf is the lesser of two evils.

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan —  Pakistan’s paramilitary forces were on red alert Thursday following the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

The former prime minister was murdered by an attacker who shot her in the neck and chest after a campaign rally and then blew himself up. Her death stoked new chaos across the nuclear-armed nation, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.

At least 20 others were also killed in the homicide bombing that immediately followed Bhutto’s shooting.

Bhutto’s supporters erupted in anger and grief after her killing, attacking police and burning tires and election campaign posters in several cities. At the hospital where she died, some smashed glass and wailed, chanting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf.

Musharraf blamed Islamic extremists for Bhutto’s death and said he would redouble his efforts to fight them.

“This is the work of those terrorists with whom we are engaged in war,” he said in a nationally televised speech. “I have been saying that the nation faces the greatest threats from these terrorists. … We will not rest until we eliminate these terrorists and root them out.”

In the U.S., President Bush strongly condemned the attack “by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy.”

Musharraf convened an emergency meeting with his senior staff, where they were expected to discuss whether to postpone the elections, an official at the Interior Ministry said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

The attacker struck just minutes after Bhutto, 54, addressed thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, 8 miles south of Islamabad. She was shot in the neck and chest by the attacker, who then blew himself up, said Rehman Malik, Bhutto’s security adviser.

Sardar Qamar Hayyat, a leader from Bhutto’s party, said he was standing about 10 yard away from her vehicle at the time of the attack.

“She was inside the vehicle and was coming out from the gate after addressing the rally when some of the youths started chanting slogans in her favor. Then I saw a smiling Bhutto emerging from the vehicle’s roof and responding to their slogans,” he said.

“Then I saw a thin, young man jumping toward her vehicle from the back and opening fire. Moments later, I saw her speeding vehicle going away,” he added.

Bhutto was rushed to the hospital and taken into emergency surgery. She died about an hour after the attack.

A doctor on the team that treated her said she had a bullet in the back of the neck that damaged her spinal cord before exiting from the side of her head. Another bullet pierced the back of her shoulder and came out through her chest.

She was given open heart massage, but the main cause of death was damage to her spinal cord, the doctor said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“At 6:16 p.m., she expired,” said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto’s party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital.

“The surgeons confirmed that she has been martyred,” Bhutto’s lawyer Babar Awan said.

Bhutto’s supporters at the hospital exploded in anger, smashing the glass door at the main entrance of the emergency unit. Others burst into tears. One man with a flag of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party tied around his head was beating his chest.

“I saw her with my own eyes sitting in a vehicle after addressing the rally. Then, I heard an explosion,” Tahir Mahmood, 55, said sobbing. “I am in shock. I cannot believe that she is dead.”

Many chanted slogans against Musharraf, accusing him of complicity in her killing.

“We repeatedly informed the government to provide her proper security and appropriate equipment … but they paid no heed to our requests,” Malik said.

As news of her death spread, angry supporters took to the streets.

In Karachi, shop owners quickly closed their businesses as protesters set tires on fire on the roads, torched several vehicles and burned a gas station, said Fayyaz Leghri, a local police official. Gunmen shot and wounded two police officers, he said.

In Rawalpindi, the site of the attack, Bhutto’s supporters burned election posters from the ruling party and attacked police, who fled from the scene. Violence also broke out in Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and many other parts of Pakistan, where Bhutto’s supporters set fire to a bus, pelted stones at shops and blocked city roads.

Musharraf, who announced three days of mourning for Bhutto, urged calm.

“I want to appeal to the nation to remain peaceful and exercise restraint,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif, another former premier and opposition leader, arrived at the hospital and sat silently next to Bhutto’s body.

“Benazir Bhutto was also my sister, and I will be with you to take the revenge for her death,” he said. “Don’t feel alone. I am with you. We will take the revenge on the rulers.”

He later announced that his party would boycott the Jan. 8 elections, and he called for Musharraf to step down immediately.

“The holding of fair and free elections is not possible in the presence of Pervez Musharraf,” Sharif said at a news conference. “After the killing of Benazir Bhutto, I announce that the Pakistan Muslim League-N will boycott the elections.”

He added: “I demand that Musharraf should quit immediately.”

Hours earlier, four people were killed at a rally for Sharif when his supporters clashed with backers of Musharraf near Rawalpindi.

Hours after her death, Bhutto’s body was carried out of the hospital in a plain wooden coffin by a crowd of supporters. Her body was expected to be transferred to an air base and brought to her hometown of Larkana.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who met with Bhutto just hours before her death, called her a brave woman with a clear vision “for her own country, for Afghanistan and for the region — a vision of democracy and prosperity and peace.”

Bhutto’s death will leave a void at the top of her party, the largest political group in the country, as it heads into the elections. It also fueled fears that the crucial vote could descend into violence.

Pakistan is considered a vital U.S. ally in the fight against Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists including the Taliban. Usama bin Laden and his inner circle are believed to be hiding in lawless northwest Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.

The U.S. has invested significant diplomatic capital in promoting reconciliation between Musharraf and the opposition, particularly Bhutto, who was seen as having a wide base of support in Pakistan. Her party had been widely expected to do well in next month’s elections.

Bush, speaking briefly to reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanded that those responsible for the killing be brought to justice.

“The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy,” Bush said.

Pakistan was just emerging from another crisis after Musharraf declared a state of emergency on Nov. 3, and used sweeping powers to round up thousands of his opponents and fire Supreme Court justices. He ended emergency rule Dec. 15 and subsequently relinquished his role as army chief, a key opposition demand. Bhutto had been an outspoken critic of Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule.

Educated at Harvard and Oxford universities, Bhutto served twice as Pakistan’s prime minister between 1988 and 1996.

Her father was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, scion of a wealthy landowning family in southern Pakistan and founder of the populist Pakistan People’s Party. The elder Bhutto was president and then prime minister of Pakistan before his ouster in a 1977 military coup. Two years later, he was executed by the government of Gen. Zia-ul Haq after being convicted of engineering the murder of a political opponent.

Bhutto had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on Oct. 18. On the same day, she narrowly escaped injury when her homecoming parade in Karachi was targeted in a suicide attack that killed more than 140 people.

Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban hated Bhutto for her close ties to the Americans and support for the war on terrorism. A local Taliban leader reportedly threatened to greet Bhutto’s return to the country with suicide bombings.

At the scene of Thursday’s bombing, an Associated Press reporter saw body parts and flesh scattered at the back gate of the Liaqat Bagh park, where Bhutto had spoken. He counted about 20 bodies, including police, and could see many other wounded people.

Police cordoned off the street with white and red tape, and rescuers rushed to put victims in ambulances as people wailed nearby.

The clothing of some victims was shredded and people put party flags over their bodies. Police caps and shoes littered the asphalt.

Hundreds of riot police had manned security checkpoints around the venue. It was Bhutto’s first public meeting in Rawalpindi since she came back to the country.

In November, Bhutto had also planned a rally in the city, but Musharraf forced her to cancel it, citing security fears.

In recent weeks, suicide bombers have repeatedly targeted security forces in Rawalpindi, where Musharraf stays and the Pakistan army has its headquarters.

Terrorists Use Infant In Suicide Bombing

Another horrific act by Islamic Terrorists, during the recent attempt to assassinate former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was conducted using a baby to try and get the bomb close enought to kill Ms. Bhutto. It is POS’ like this that makes all of Islam to look bad and why  people are becoming less tolerant.

What is the sense of sacrificing a baby, just because you are not man enough to be a Jihadist by yourself.

Meanwhile, horrifying new details emerged last night of the attempt by suicide bombers to kill Ms Bhutto on her return home from exile last month.

Investigators from Ms Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party said yesterday they believed the bomb, which killed 170 people and left hundreds more wounded, was strapped to a one-year-old child carried by its jihadist father.

They said the suicide bomber tried repeatedly to carry the baby to Ms Bhutto’s vehicle as she drove in a late-night cavalcade through the streets of Karachi.

“At the point where the bombs exploded, Benazir Bhutto herself saw the man with the child and asked him to come closer so that she could hug or kiss the infant,” investigators were reported as saying. “But someone came in between and a guard felt that the man with the child was not behaving normally. So the child was not allowed to come aboard Benazir’s vehicle.”

Ms Bhutto is said to have told investigators she recalls the face of the man who was carrying the infant. She has asked to see recordings made by television news channels to try to identify the man.