ISLAMABAD, Aug 30: Reports of contacts between the government and PPP chairperson Ms Benazir Bhutto are being given increasing credence here by well-informed sources who name two very important personalities, one from the United States and the other from the Gulf for having played a decisive role in helping to nudge the two sides closer.

The sources told Dawn on Saturday that the government had been encouraged to establish contact with Ms Bhutto by Richard G. Lugar, chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

The US senator, they said, had been urging the Pakistan government to hold discussions with the former prime minister to end the on-going political crisis in the country.

Assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca, the sources said, during her visits had also conveyed the desire of the US administration to the Pakistani authorities for making peace with the Pakistan People’s Party.

The sources said the US was interested in the return of Ms Bhutto to Pakistan as it did not want to see “liberal and progressive” elements in the Pakistan’s politics become ineffective, particularly in the wake of massive victory of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) in the last general elections.

They said the US believed that most of the liberal and progressive parties in Pakistan were in the opposition camp and at present struggling against the Legal Framework Order (LFO) and out of necessity these parties had even been joining hands with the formidable religious alliance, the MMA, in the prevailing political battle.

The sources said Sheikh Al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, was also playing an important role in bringing the government and the PPP closer to a deal.

They said the Dubai ruler was in contact with the military government in Pakistan and wanted it to release Asif Ali Zardari, who had been in jail since 1996.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the PPP Senator Farhatullah Khan Babar, when contacted to seek his comments, said he was unaware of the role of any specific person in bringing about contacts between the government and his party, but it was a fact that the PPP had been urging the US to play its role in strengthening democracy in Pakistan.

Mr Babar said the PPP had asked the US that being the world’s most powerful democracy, “it should influence the Pakistan authorities for restoration of sovereignty of the Constitution and parliament”.

He added: “We have even pointed out contradictions in the US approach that a dictator in Iraq is unacceptable to it, but a dictator in Pakistan is acceptable to it,” he added.

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