Bhutto denies deal with Musharraf
by Qaiser Felix
Government statement about amnesty that would allow former prime minister to come home and run for office might not be true. Instead 162 federal and provincial lawmakers resign and boycott the election. By contrast, Bhutto’s party does not take sides.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said that talks with President Pervez Musharraf that would allow her to return home despite corruption charges are “totally stalled.” But whilst protests against Musharraf’s candidacy to the presidency grow, Ms Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is keeping away from the controversy.

The former prime minister has always rejected the charges against her and has been negotiating with Musharraf a way to return home. Analysts say that in exchange for that the PPP would support Musharraf in the October 6 election.

State Information Minister Tariq Azeem announced that the government will approve an amnesty for all public officials accused of corruption but not yet tried. This would include Ms Bhutto.

Federal railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed did confirm that the government did reach a decision favourable to Bhutto. Many believe that she wants to reclaim her former post as prime minister.

In the meantime, controversy surrounding the election is growing.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry constituted a nine-member Supreme Court bench that meets today to hear two petitions challenging Musharraf’s candidacy on the basis that army officers can’t contest elections.

The outgoing president said that he would resign “right away” from the army if re-elected. He has also appointed a close aide, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, as deputy army chief to succeed him.

Yesterday 162 opposition lawmakers from the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) resigned from the National Assembly and three provincial assemblies (46 in Punjab, 25 in Balochistan and 7 in Sindh) as a protest against General Musharraf’s participation in the presidential election. Among the 85 members of the National Assembly who quit, 62 belong to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and 20 to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The rest are from smaller parties.

The PPP, which is the main national party, has not joined the boycott and has not taken a final stand on the matter.

Under Pakistan’s constitution the president is elected by members of the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies in joint session.