Pelosi Statement on Bhutto Resolution

WashingtonD.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this morning in support of a resolution condemning the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and supporting the democratic hopes of the people of Pakistan.  Below are her remarks:

‘Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding and for giving us this opportunity to express our sympathy and sadness and recognize the tremendous contribution of Benazir Bhutto to the cause of democracy.

‘It was about 15 years ago that Benazir Bhutto came to this chamber of Congress, one of the first women ever to address a joint session of Congress.  She was only in her thirties, I believe, at the time.  She inspired us; she filled us with hope and the confidence which she projected; she gave us the confidence that democracy could come to Pakistan.  That was a while ago, and much has transpired since then.  She been in and out and in again as prime minister, and as you know, when she returned to Pakistan, it was to participate in an election, to take Pakistan back down the path to democracy.

‘Her return was courageous.  It was courageous for many reasons.  It’s important to note that her father and two of her brothers had been assassinated.  They were victims of political violence and of course, their family was dealt another blow as were the people of Pakistan with the brutal assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

‘She possessed a remarkable optimism about the future, a belief in the power of dialogue, and a strong commitment to democracy.  She was an advocate for reconciliation, between Islamic and non-Islamic societies, and outlined how that goal could be achieved.  She not only had a vision, she had a plan on how it would be done.  The strength of her message and hope has underscored how much we lost in her tragic death.

‘In the days and weeks that have followed Benazir Bhutto’s death, there has been little good news from Pakistan.  The Musharraf government continues to deny the Pakistani people a full accounting of the assassination and the events that followed.  There must be a strong international investigation of this despicable crime.  I acknowledge and recognize that the government has accepted assistance from Scotland Yard and the government of Great Britain. But the government has delayed scheduled parliamentary elections while continuing to jail democratic activists, suppress journalists, and shut out international monitors.

‘The Bush Administration must continue to press the Pakistani government to ensure that the coming election is free and fair.  It is important to note, my colleagues and Madam Speaker, that the 9/11 Commission recommendations, which were passed by this body and were signed into law last year, conditioned U.S. assistance to Pakistan by the cooperation on Pakistani government with global efforts against terrorism.  Since 2001, Pakistan has received nearly $10 billion in U.S. assistance.  The Bush Administration has repeatedly certified that our assistance would facilitate Pakistan’s transition to democracy.  We clearly have not seen enough progress in this area.

‘Troubling questions have been raised about our assistance to Pakistan – that it has not been properly monitored and that the Pakistani government may be using it for purposes other than those that were intended.  Last year, under the leadership of Chairwoman Nita Lowey and Ranking Member Frank Wolf of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of Appropriations, our legislation shifted economic assistance for Pakistan from going directly to the Musharraf government to going directly to the Pakistani people on the ground.  Indeed, this was a step forward and a recognition of the concerns that we have about how that aid was being used in Pakistan.

‘I believe the best way the United States can honor the legacy of Benazir Bhutto is to renew our engagement directly with the people of Pakistan.  We urge the Musharraf government to implement democratic reforms by restoring the Pakistani constitution, ensuring freedom of expression and assembly, guaranteeing free and fair democratic elections, and restoring independent judiciary.

‘The opportunity Mr. Ackerman, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman Lantos, and Mr. Pence have given us today, to give an overwhelming vote in support of this resolution, can tell the world that we have again gone on record in support of the democratic hopes of the Pakistani people and to pay tribute to the legacy of Benazir Bhutto.

‘I know I speak for all Members when I express my condolences to the family of Benazir Bhutto, but also to all the others who have lost their loved ones in this tragic incidence of violence and assassination in Pakistan.’

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