Bhutto forthcoming, Musharraf vague about rapprochement


Washington/Karachi : Leaving the field clear for a rapprochement in the future, Pakistan’s exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has sought a “balance of respective powers” if she joins President Pervez Musharraf in government.

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While Bhutto was forthcoming about her political plans after a reported meeting with Musharraf in Abu Dhabi over the weekend, back home the Pakistani president kept everyone guessing.

He told his supporters at a meeting “not to worry” and said he did not plan an immediate change in the government set up.

“Let people guess about the meeting. You shouldn’t care for it. Why do you go into details?” Musharraf was quoted as telling the Daily Times Monday.

In an interview with CNN, Bhutto replied to a question if she could work with Musharraf in the “right circumstances”: “Well, if the people of Pakistan give me a mandate, yes, but there would need to be a balance between the powers of the presidency and the powers of the parliament.”

She refused to confirm her meeting with Musharraf, but said there have been contacts between her and the government at various levels.

She said there remained many issues to be discussed, including whether Pakistan moves along a democratic track and whether there are free and fair elections open to all parties.

“Time is running out and I hope we can make the deadline,” Bhutto added, maintaining that it would be unrealistic for Musharraf to remain both president and army chief.

At a press conference in New York Saturday, Bhutto said her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was of the view that “a uniformed president is simply unacceptable”.

Keeping her options open, Bhutto reiterated her commitment to the Charter of Democracy, signed with arch rival Nawaz Sharif and other opposition leaders in May last year.

She argued that it did not forbid negotiations with a military government for its replacement by a democracy.