Deliver on electoral reforms promise, Bhutto urges Musharraf


Islamabad : Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto has urged President Pervez Musharraf to deliver on his promise to introduce reforms to hold free, fair and transparent elections, even as the military ruler has said he would abide by the Supreme Court ruling on his re-election.
Speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, Bhutto said Musharraf should “put in place the elements of an understanding on the issues of democracy and election within three weeks”, The News reported Thursday.

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In a separate interview with a respected US academic journal, Bhutto confirmed that her Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had discussed with Musharraf’s government the possibility of his shedding his uniform and running as a civilian president with her as prime minister.

No concrete plans had emerged as yet, she told YaleGlobal, the flagship publication of the Yale Centre for the Study of Globalisation. Musharraf and Bhutto had recently held discussions in Abu Dhabi.

Bhutto maintained that without a peaceful transfer of power, Pakistan might witness a Ukrainian-style Orange Revolution – but with a twist: the winner might not be the political parties demanding democracy but Pakistan’s armed extremists.

“No one believed that when the Shah of Iran was facing street riots it would end up in an Ayatollah revolution,” she told the journal.

Bhutto sidestepped a question whether Musharraf’s troubles at home had prompted him to seek accommodation with her party, but said the rise of extremist violence and the gathering strength of a pro-democracy movement, as well as international calls supporting the democratic process, could be factors.

According to Bhutto, there were two major fault lines in Pakistan.

“We have one on dictatorship versus democracy, and we have a second one on moderation versus fundamentalism or extremism. I think that Gen Musharraf is trying to seek a way out by having these contacts with the Pakistan Peoples Party.”

She had decided to return to Pakistan “for saving my country from militants’ threats”, Bhutto added. The former prime minister faces arrest on corruption charges if she returns home.

Musharraf also spoke out on his re-election during an address to a group of senators belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and allied parties at a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at the PM House Wednesday.

Musharraf maintained he would “act strictly within the constitution and parameters of the judgement of the Supreme Court on his re-election”, The News said.

“I am equally confident that the judiciary and the executive would also perform their constitutional roles in moving Pakistan forward on the democratic path and help maintain and even accelerate the economic gains that have been achieved during the past eight years,” he added.

He hoped that the Senate would provide the much-needed continuity to the political system as the nation moves through the forthcoming presidential and general elections.

According to Musharraf, the people of Pakistan needed peace and security and opportunities to earn livelihood for themselves and their families.

“The forthcoming electoral process must, therefore, be completed peacefully, freely and fairly and a peaceful democratic transfer of power should follow,” the president maintained.