Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Bhutto to decide fate of talks with Musharraf, return to Pakistan

Bhutto to decide fate of talks with Musharraf, return to Pakistan

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto brought her party's leaders to London Friday for talks on whether to accept a power-sharing agreement with President Pervez Musharraf that could bring an end to military rule.
The daylong session ended without a conclusion. More talks are set for Saturday.
Bhutto discussed a possible date for a return home with Pakistan People's Party members. She could return in early October, said Wajid Hasan, a party spokesman.
Gen. Musharraf and Bhutto have been wrangling for months over the terms of an agreement 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 commitment from Musharraf on two critical points _ that he would 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 in Pakistan, 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.
The party was waiting for written answers to questions raised with Musharraf's officials, Hasan said.
Musharraf, who governed Pakistan 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 to let neither Bhutto nor Sharif 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 widespread calls for an end to military rule.
Musharraf recently began calling for moderates to unite against extremism. He has faced growing pressure from the United States to crack down on the spreading influence of militant groups linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Sharif promised 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.
Musharraf aides responded Thursday by denying her claim that he had decided to quit as army chief before presidential elections, which are 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 would take if the talks with Musharraf break down. But he said he was not optimistic.
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.
Any collapse of the Bhutto-Musharraf talks would likely alarm Pakistan's Western backers, including United States, which is hoping the next government will maintain Pakistan's effort to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Bhutto met earlier Friday with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
"We discussed the political situation in Pakistan including elections and I was very encouraged that the foreign secretary met me," Bhutto told reporters.
Bhutto is trying to convince voters and skeptics in her own party 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. He has aligned himself with Islamist parties that support 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 the 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.
___
Associated Press writers Stephen Graham and Munir Ahmad in Islamabad, Pakistan and David Stringer and Romina Spina in London contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-20 14:55 GMT+08:00