Developing Political Scenario in Pakistan & Lingering Crisis
Bhutto Warns of Uprising If Political Deal Isn't Made
By ZAHID HUSSAIN
Wall Street Journal; September 6, 2007; Page A10
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said the power-sharing deal she is negotiating with President Pervez Musharraf is designed to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy and a stronger balance between the powers of the president and Parliament.
She warned that failure to reach an agreement could prompt a people's uprising akin to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004.
"It is up to the government to decide whether it wants a peaceful transition to democracy through free and fair elections or face people's power" and a "Ukrainian-style Orange Revolution in Pakistan," Ms. Bhutto said in a telephone interview from Dubai.
The 56-year-old former two-term prime minister is trying to return from exile through negotiations with Gen. Musharraf. Talks have picked up steam this week in Dubai.
A deal is aimed at ensuring that the deeply unpopular Gen. Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, gains another five-year term in a presidential election in Parliament that is expected this month and that Ms. Bhutto is eligible to regain the prime minister's office even though Pakistani law forbids a third term.
MORE FROM BENAZIR BHUTTO
Further excerpts from Benazir Bhutto's interview with The Wall Street Journal:
"People of Pakistan want change. They want a society free from terrorism and suicide bombings."
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"My present dialogue is aimed at taking Pakistan out of military rule to democracy."
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"There is unrest in the country. Tribal areas are dominated by pro Taliban and pro al Qaida elements. Even Pakistani army officers are being kidnapped. So, Pakistan's unity is at stake."
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"In this situation, people will prefer a peaceful transition to democracy."
She said some significant progress was made in the negotiations. Advisers on both sides have said it is likely a deal will be announced soon.
But Ms. Bhutto acknowledged that some issues remained unresolved and claimed there was a strong faction in the government resisting any agreement. The negotiations had stalled last week after objections raised by top leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q), Gen. Musharraf's chief supporters in Parliament.
"This is such a roller coaster that one cannot be sure about the final outcome," Ms. Bhutto said. "Gen. Musharraf is sincere, but there are some vested interests who do not want to see a peaceful transition from military rule to democracy."
Ms. Bhutto also has faced dissent in her own party's ranks and has suffered a huge fall in public support since news of the negotiations surfaced. Ms. Bhutto said she realizes the risks involved but maintained that the dialogue with Gen. Musharraf was necessary, since the country's security was threatened by terrorism and religious extremism.
"Pakistan's unity is at stake because of terrorism and religious extremists," she said. "So, need for unity among the moderate and liberal forces is much greater today."
A major point of difference still to be resolved is diluting the current power held by the president to dissolve Parliament. "There is need for a balance of power between the president and the Parliament," she said.
Ms. Bhutto's support would help Gen. Musharraf stay in power as he faces the most serious challenge to his rule since he seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.
But there remain obstacles to his re-election, including the fact that the Supreme Court yesterday agreed to consider a petition filed by the leader of an Islamic political alliance challenging the legitimacy of Gen. Musharraf's candidacy.
Gen. Musharraf and Ms. Bhutto are under pressure to reach a deal ahead of Monday's scheduled return to Islamabad of Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister, whose democratically elected government was ousted by Gen. Musharraf eight years ago. Mr. Sharif has been in exile for the past seven years.
Saudi Arabia, once Mr. Sharif's home in exile, chided him earlier this week for breaking an alleged promise not to return to Pakistan for 10 years.
"Wisdom dictates that Mr. Sharif abide by his promise not to return to Pakistan and to political activity," said a Saudi spokesman quoted by the state-controlled SPA news agency.
Analysts interpreted the statement as a last-ditch attempt by Pakistan's government to block Mr. Sharif's return. Ahsan Iqbal, Mr. Sharif's spokesman, said there was no change in Mr. Sharif's travel plans.
Ms. Bhutto said she will decide next week when to return to the country.