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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 November 2005, 11:54 GMT
Asian earthquake
On Sunday 27 November 2005 Andrew Marr interviewed Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan

ANDREW MARR: Last month's Asian earthquake left more than 70,000 people dead and millions homeless in Pakistan alone.

Aid agencies in Europe and the government of Pakistan itself have been critical of the response from Western donors to this.

In turn, one person who has been critical of President Musharraf's government, and his own relief operations in the aftermath of the quake, has been Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, now living, of course, in exile.

Welcome Benazir Bhutto.

What do you think Musharraf should have done that he hasn't done?

BENAZIR BHUTTO: First, the response was very slow. It took General Musharraf's regime three days to mobilise the army and to mobilise the administration to reach the people. And contrast that with the response of Britain, which had sent its team within 24 hours to Pakistan. So we felt that many people who were injured lost their lives due to the delay.

ANDREW MARR: Why do you think that was? Is it in the nature of a military regime to be slow-footed at this kind of occasion?

BENAZIR BHUTTO: Yes, militaries are really trained to defend the frontiers of the country, they don't know much about governance. But elected representatives have voter pressure on them, people pressure on them. For example, the regime first down-played the crisis: it said that about a thousand people had died and that the press should remain calm.

But there were so many Kashmiris - this happened in the northern areas of Pakistan - who also lived in Britain, and they were able to contact their representatives and they were able to highlight it much quicker, because Britain is an open society, as opposed to our own which is more closed. So there are dangers inherent in a military regime which make it difficult for them to be responsive to the needs of the people.

ANDREW MARR: And of course Kashmir is one of the world's great political fault-lines, as well as geological fault-lines. What about the possibility of opening that border, that militarised zone, both ways - because there were hopes that perhaps people from both sides would start to flow more easily across, that aid from the Indian army and the Indian government would come into Pakistan and Kashmir?

BENAZIR BHUTTO: It's a very important issue which disturbed many people. When the earthquake took place in, what you call, a political fault-line, the Indian government offered to help Pakistan but initially we refused the help.

Now when people are dying, you don't really look at who is offering the help, you take it. The first issue should be to help the people. Moreover when Turkey had an earthquake, Greece was very quick in offering aid and it helped to break the political stalemate.

ANDREW MARR: It should be a healing moment politically.

BENAZIR BHUTTO: It should be a healing moment.

ANDREW MARR: And it did ...

BENAZIR BHUTTO: There was talk about it - but it was too little, too late, not enough advantage taken of the momentum for bringing people together that could have taken place. And again, because the military regime had security concerns, whereas the political regime believes in peace, so the borders aren't tense and they can really use the resources of the state on the poor people.

ANDREW MARR: For all of those people watching who say we can understand the criticism of Musharraf's regime but what should we be doing now, what is the situation like now. You know these villages and towns which have been so devastated, are you also worried about the next phase as the winter snow comes in?

BENAZIR BHUTTO: I'm very worried about the next phase because the snow is coming in and people are going to freeze. Particularly vulnerable are small children. The aid dispersement still has a lot of setbacks. For example, we need clear procedures, we need a criteria how the aid is going to be distributed.

We need accountability of the process. Now the aid and rehabilitation is headed by a general, the generals refuse to come to parliaments, you can't really question them on what is happening. Some of the aid trucks, I mean, a particular case to give you an example, ended up in the home of a minister of the Kashmir government. So some of the aid is being siphoned off. So we really need accountability to make sure that the people get the aid and that's still not happening fast enough.

ANDREW MARR: And what does this mean, do you think, for the possibility of extremism bubbling up again in areas which feel they have been left alone?

BENAZIR BHUTTO: You see the extremism raises two issues for me. The first that if the state fails to come to the aid of the people, then there's a vacuum and others will come in - which has happened - Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned group, is burying people because the government is not burying them.

But secondly what worries me is that we thought these groups had been banned and that the madrisas that were training the militants had been controlled but suddenly the banned groups appeared, demonstrating that they have freedom of movement, freedom of mobilisation of resources and freedom to act. So this worries me on two fronts - the ability of the state to respond to people and the still strong existence of extremism groups.

ANDREW MARR: Benazir Bhutto, thank you very much indeed. Benazir Bhutto, who makes her observations from the safety of London - charges of corruption, just or not, would face her if she returned to the country that she once ruled.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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