Pakistan: Bhutto says talks with Musharraf stalled

As she prepares to return to Pakistan from her long exile, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says she does not yet have the guarantees she was promised, Salman Masood reports for The New York Times:

The opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said Wednesday that talks with Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, over a power-sharing agreement had stalled.

Speaking in London, Ms. Bhutto also left open the possibility that her party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, would resign from Parliament before presidential elections on Saturday, Pakistani news media reported.

Other opposition parties have already done so in an effort to undercut the legitimacy of the vote, by the national and provincial assemblies, which General Musharraf is expected to win.

Ms. Bhutto made the unexpected announcement to reporters at a meeting of her party’s central executive committee a day after the government announced plans for a law that would give her amnesty from corruption cases.

On Wednesday, Ms. Bhutto dismissed that announcement as “disinformation.”

Read the full story at the link above. This appears to be a game of brinksmanship on both sides. Musharraf’s government must grant Bhutto, at least, amnesty to secure the participation of her party in the elections. It’s the only way he can make them credible. Bhutto, on the other hand, wishes to press her advantage while she can, probably hoping to secure other concessions from the government – a broader amnesty for her supporters, repeal of the law prohibiting third terms for Prime Ministers (I wonder who she has in mind?), and perhaps others.

It is, however, in both their interests to come to an agreement. Bhutto is Musharraf’s only real hope of clinging to power with the aura of legitimacy; Musharraf can give Bhutto back her career in Pakistan with the stroke of a pen. Of course, they will make a deal – at the last possible moment, I would wager.

Their alliance represents the best interests of the United States and the West collectively, too, as only they have the stature and power to turn the rising tide of extremist Islamic sects.

Meanwhile, back at the Election again
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