Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Pakistan's Bhutto to decide whether to continue talks with Musharraf

Pakistan's Bhutto to decide whether to continue talks with Musharraf

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto meets leaders of her opposition party Friday to decide whether to continue talks with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that could see them share power and end military rule in Pakistan.
A party official said the gathering in London might also set a date for Bhutto to return to Pakistan _ a day after another exiled ex-premier, Nawaz Sharif, vowed to return on Sept. 10.
Musharraf and Bhutto are discussing a pact that would shore up his fraught re-election bid and allow her to return to contest parliamentary elections.
However, she has yet to win a public commitment from Musharraf on two key points _ that he step down as army chief and give up the power to dismiss the government and parliament.
"We would like to know firmly whether the government agrees to our proposals for the transition to democracy or not," Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, told The Associated Press.
"If we conclude that the talks are leading nowhere, we have a number of options," including breaking them off, Babar said ahead of the meeting in London.
Hassan Bukhari, an adviser to Bhutto, said the party might announce a specific date for the two-time prime minister's return.
Musharraf, who governed Pakistan virtually unchallenged for years after he seized power in 1999, now finds himself in a three-way fight for power with Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the man he deposed in a bloodless coup.
The general once vowed not to let either return to Pakistan, accusing them of corruption and mismanaging Pakistan in the 1980s, when each served two truncated terms.
But he has lost support since a botched attempt to fire the country's top judge in March spawned street protests and a widespread calls for an end to military rule.
Musharraf recently began calling for moderates to unite against extremism amid growing pressure from the United States to crack down on the spreading influence of militant groups linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Sharif vowed Thursday to return to Pakistan on Sept. 10 to wage a "decisive battle against dictatorship."
Bhutto had named Aug. 31 as the date by which her party needed clear concessions from Musharraf if negotiations were to continue in an effort put pressure on the government to accede to her demands.
Musharraf aides responded Thursday by denying her claim that he had decided to quit as army chief before presidential elections due between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15.
Bhutto's spokesman suggested the party could only allow government envoys a little more time to respond or see the tentative deal collapse.
"If they don't come out in a day or two, then I think all the things that have been discussed so far goes haywire," Babar said.
Babar wouldn't say what course the party could take if the talks with Musharraf broke down.
Sharif on Thursday described Bhutto's dealings with Musharraf as a "gross violation" of an opposition pact to fight for the restoration of democracy.
Despite their differences, Babar insisted Bhutto could still join Sharif in outright opposition to Musharraf. "In politics, the doors are always open," he said.
Any collapse of the Bhutto-Musharraf talks would likely alarm Pakistan's Western backers, including United States, which is hoping for a stable transition that continues Pakistan's efforts against the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Bhutto met Friday with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband for private talks on the upcoming elections, the Foreign Office in London said.
Bhutto is trying to convince skeptics that Musharraf's support among the military and international community means he still has a role to play.
Sharif, however, is at loggerheads with the general, and has aligned in the past and in the current struggle with Islamist parties that voice support for the Taliban and deplore Musharraf's alliance with the United States.
Misgivings about the return of the exiled leaders is strong in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the party pulled together after the coup to support Musharraf's government.
Azim Chaudhry, a senior PML-Q official, said most of the party's leadership opposed Bhutto's demands, which include the dropping of corruption charges that she fled in 1999.
"She is demanding too much, and in return, she is not willing to even come up with a statement that she would back the president for another term," he said.


Updated : 2021-05-09 01:47 GMT+08:00