Bhutto vows return to Pakistan as deal stalls
FORMER Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto said yesterday that talks on a power-sharing deal with president Pervez Musharraf had stalled, but she would return to Pakistan very soon even without an agreement.
"No understanding has been arrived at," she told a news conference in London about her negotiations with Musharraf, which would see him quit as army chief and stand for re-election as president, and Bhutto return to become prime minister.
She said talks between her party and Musharraf's envoys "were successful during 80% but appear to have stalled", and the Musharraf delegation has returned to Pakistan for consultations.
Pakistan, a nuclear power on the front line of the West's fight against al-Qaeda, is facing the risk of instability and turmoil as Musharraf plots his course and former exiled prime ministers Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif prepare to return home.
Bhutto, who has corruption charges hanging over her and could be detained upon her arrival in Pakistan, denied her return would be destabilising: "I saw my country destabilised during my absence.
"We've taken the decision to announce on September 14 the date of my return, because we feel it would be a factor for the stability of Pakistan.
"I will be going back to Pakistan very soon... I feel the stage is set for the restoration of democracy, and I hope to go back to play my part."
Bhutto blamed hardliners in Musharraf's ruling party, who she said had also been promoting militant Islam, for trying to scupper the talks. Nevertheless, the two-week delay in announcing her return plans gives more time for negotiations.
Bhutto met colleagues from her popular Pakistan People's Party in London yesterday to decide their next step, as Musharraf weighed his options ahead of a presidential election due between September 15 and October 15, which he hopes will win him another five-year term.
A general election is due at the end of the year.
But with his popularity plummeting and challenges to his rule mounting, Musharraf must line up support, and he has turned to Bhutto for help to broaden his base.
Bhutto has insisted an agreement would hinge on Musharraf stepping down as chief of the army, which has ruled for more than half of Pakistan's history since independence in 1947.
Bhutto also wants immunity from prosecution for herself and others who served in the late 1980s and 1990s.
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