Fri, Aug 17, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Bhutto urges Pakistani president to fulfill promises


Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto urged the country's military leader to fulfill promises he made about upcoming elections by the end of the month, when her party will consider whether to enter a political alliance that would restore democracy.

The exiled Bhutto said her party has been negotiating with President Pervez Musharraf for almost a year about a possible alliance. He made a commitment to take several confidence-building measures, but nothing has happened, she said.

"So my party is asking, is it just the talk, or is it going to turn into a walk?" she said. "We would need to see the fulfillment of those commitments in the next two to three weeks before my party needs to take a final decision on where we stand."

Bhutto told the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday that she wants to return to Pakistan later this year to lead the movement for the restoration of democracy.

Musharraf has reiterated his opposition to having Bhutto and another exiled prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, come home to lead their parties in upcoming parliamentary elections. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N, both secular parties with widespread middle-class support, are expected to do well at the elections.

Bhutto, who served twice as prime minister and fled the country in 1999 to avoid corruption charges, disputed Musharraf's claim that their presence would be destabilizing to Pakistan and the campaign.

"Both of us don't agree because we feel our return will be destabilizing to the ruling party ... but it won't be destabilizing to the nation," she said. "We feel that elections cannot be free and fair unless the leaders of all parties are allowed to contest and contest fairly."

Bhutto did not spell out the promises Musharraf made, but her party has demanded that he take off his uniform and relinquish control of the army.

It has also called for electoral reforms to ensure that all prospective voters are registered and that international monitors are present. Bhutto said her party has gone to court because 30 percent of its members are not on the voter rolls.

"My country, Pakistan, is once again in a crisis and it's a crisis that threatens not only my nation and region, but possibly could have repercussions on the entire world," she said.

Bhutto said Pakistan's crisis has its roots in military rule and which under Musharraf "has fueled the forces of extremism."

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