Musharraf sought patch-up: Benazir

Published October 7, 2006

BOSTON, Oct 6: Former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto has said that Musharraf approached her for a possible patch-up before 2007 elections and there were some “back-channel” contacts with the government but that stubborn differences remained.

In an interview with Reuters, she said she wanted to return to run in 2007 elections and accused the country’s military ruler of failing to tackle religious schools that promotes global terrorism.

“I’ve been out for a very long time — since 1999. The people need to hear from me,” the exiled opposition leader told Reuters on Thursday. “If the people of Pakistan honour me with that position, I would like to come back as prime minister.”

Ms Benazir and exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, formed the multi-party Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy after President Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999 in a bloodless coup.

Both want to return to Pakistan but Musharraf has vowed to block that and has dismissed a growing alliance between her Pakistan People’s Party and Nawaz’s Pakistan Muslim League as irrelevant.

He has accused both of corruption — allegations they deny — and most people believe that, with Sharif and Bhutto outside the country, elections by the end of 2007 will return national and provincial assemblies that will vote Musharraf in again.

“If the leaders of the religious parties should be allowed to campaign in Pakistan, the leaders of the moderate parties should be allowed to return to Pakistan and campaign,” Ms Benazir said after attending a conference in Boston.

She said a blast near Musharraf’s army residence in the northern city of Rawalpindi on Wednesday showed that terrorism was reaching deeper into Pakistani cities, partly because militants still thrive in Islamic seminaries.—Reuters

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