Friday, December 28, 2007

Visiting U.S. lawmakers were to meet with Bhutto

Associated Press
Published on: 12/27/07

WASHINGTON — Two U.S. lawmakers scheduled to meet Thursday with former
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf
were advised to leave the country after Bhutto's assassination.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said in a telephone interview from his
Islamabad hotel room that he and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., were to
dine with Musharraf and meet later in the night with Bhutto.

He said he heard about the attack on Bhutto as he was dressing for the
dinner with Musharraf.

"Our foreign policy had relied on her presence as a stabilizing
force," Specter said, emotionally describing her death as "a real,
real, real shock."

"I knew her personally .... She was, as you know, glamorous, beautiful
smart," he said. "Her loss is a setback. But you have to face what is.
And now, without her, we have to regroup."

Kennedy said he was just leaving his hotel room for the dinner when
someone advised him to check the television for news about Bhutto.

"I couldn't believe it," Kennedy said in a telephone interview from
Pakistan. "You could really feel the tragedy of this loss because
Bhutto really represented hope here for so many people."

Bhutto was shot to death Thursday in a suicide attack that also killed
at least 20 others during a campaign rally in Rawalpindi. She served
twice as Pakistan's prime minister between 1988 and 1996 and had
returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile Oct. 18 to seek the
office again.

After learning that she was dead, Specter, Kennedy and Anne Patterson,
the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, laid flowers under Bhutto's
photograph at her campaign headquarters in what they described as an
unsettling atmosphere. Specter said he felt apprehensive about being
an American there out at night.

"They were crying and they were sobbing," Specter said, describing the
people there. "It's a night reminiscent of Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's

Patrick Kennedy, son of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Robert
Kennedy's nephew, said they laid the flowers at Bhutto's headquarters
because it was unsafe to do so at her residence.

Both lawmakers said turmoil was engulfing the country.

"Her death really dashed the hope of many here in Pakistan and that's
why there's so much disillusionment and anger being vented through
these protests that are lighting up the sky tonight as people set
fires all over the countryside," Kennedy said.

The lawmakers said they were cutting short their trip by a day on the
advice of the State Department.

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