LONDON, Aug 27: President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s team of emissaries, led by ISI chief Lt Gen Ashfaq Kiani, and PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto are understood to have discussed, at a ‘final meeting’ here on Monday, the possibilities of convening an all-party conference for achieving a ‘grand national reconciliation’.
According to sources, President Musharraf has offered to doff the uniform even before the presidential elections. But in the trade-off, he wants all political parties to agree to elect him president for the next five years after the new assemblies come into being following the next general election.
He, however, is said to want the powers of the office of the president to remain untouched _ at least up to the end of his new term.
According to the sources, the package of offers being discussed at the meeting includes formation of a national government, which would then appoint a chief election commissioner by consensus.
The government’s negotiating team comprised, besides the ISI chief, the Secretary-General of National Security Council (NSC), President’s Chief of Staff Hamid Javed and the country’s LPG king Iqbal Z Ahmed.
The PPP team included, besides the chairperson, Makhdoom Amin Fahim and policeman-turned- business tycoon Rehman Malik.
The change of tack on the part of the government is said to have been forced by circumstances obtaining in the country after July 20 and now it is said to be trying desperately to retrieve the situation fearing that President Musharraf’s attempt to get himself re-elected in uniform by the present assemblies would be blocked by the judiciary and that such a development would present to the politically rehabilitated and highly charged Nawaz Sharif the chance of a lifetime to lead an agitation that could disrupt election plans and leave the army with no option but to impose martial law minus Gen Musharraf.
The package discussed at the meeting is understood to have also included Benazir Bhutto’s demand of a general amnesty for all political leaders and removal of the ban on two-time prime ministers and the president’s trade-off condition that the constitutional hurdles in the way of his candidature would also be removed.
CHANGE OF MIND: PPP insiders said that Ms Bhutto was gradually coming round to the thinking of most of her party’s senior members who believe that any power-sharing pact with the president at this juncture would greatly damage the party’s electoral chances.
The PPP sources said she seemed to have realised that by continuing her negotiations with Gen Musharraf, she was alienating most of the moderates in the country, most of whom have become hostile to the US after 9/11 and since the presidential move against the chief justice, do not want to see Gen Musharraf occupying the presidency any more.
“There is no way the two could help each other any more. Now by continuing to cling to each other they are only dragging themselves further down the drain,” said a PPP stalwart who was opposed to the deal from the very beginning.
He blamed the Americans for, what he said, delivering Ms Bhutto to Gen Musharraf and breaking up the ARD, which was ‘the most potent and winning political combination’. “The two (Ms Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif) would have received the widest national acclaim and support had they landed in Pakistan together and started implementing the Charter of Democracy, which is perhaps the best document ever produced by Pakistani politicians,” he remarked.