US trying to revive Musharraf-Bhutto deal

From interviews I have seen on TV with Bhutto she is adamantly opposed to any renewal of the agreement with Musharraf. Perhaps she thinks Musharraf is finished. He has left the door open. While other opposition leaders especially the lawyers languish in jail Bhutto is placed under house arrest but has daily press conferences which the jailbirds never have of course.
It is interesting that the US is intervening so clearly and transparently in the political process in Pakistan. This could kill Bhutto's chances of going anywhere but to the grave.

U.S. seen trying to revive Musharraf-Bhutto deal
Sat Nov 17, 2007 2:27 AM EST

By Simon Cameron-Moore

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. envoy John Negroponte met President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday to exert pressure on him to revoke two-week-old emergency rule and make peace with opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Fearful of undermining a crucial ally at a time when al Qaeda has regrouped in Pakistan's tribal lands, Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte was expected to try to revive a deal between Bhutto and Musharraf, despite the antipathy between their camps.

"The Americans are nervous about not having Musharraf in charge of Pakistan," an official in the Pakistani presidency said. "They were told that the situation is very, very fluid."

Soon after arriving in Islamabad Negroponte spoke by telephone with Bhutto in the eastern city of Lahore, where she was released after being held for three days under house arrest to stop her leading a protest.

Negroponte also met Tariq Aziz, Secretary of the National Security Council and a close aide of Musharraf, on Friday.

Consultations have also been held by telephone with U.S. National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, and the U.S. administration is anxious that anyone who replaced Musharraf would be unable to deliver as much support in the war against terrorism, the Pakistani official said.

While Musharraf has said a general election will be held before January 9 and he expects to step down as army chief and be sworn in as a civilian president beforehand, both Bhutto and the United States want more.

Musharraf is upset at the bad press he has been getting from the international and domestic media after resorting to emergency powers, despite his liberal, western-friendly leanings, and blamed judges and rivals for derailing the political process.

"Did I go mad? Or suddenly, my personality changed? Am I Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?" Musharraf asked the British Broadcasting Service in an interview.

On Saturday he persuaded the United Arab Emirates to block satellite channel Geo News, Pakistan's top Urdu-language independent news channel and broadcast from Dubai, because of its critical coverage.


Negroponte is expected to push for the release of thousands of lawyers, opposition and rights activists and an end of emergency rule as a pre-requisite for a "free and fair" election.

On Friday, Musharraf swore in a caretaker government, made up of people seen as friendly to his allies in the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), after the National Assembly was dissolved following the completion of its five-year term a day earlier.

Bhutto doesn't trust Musharraf to let her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) get a clear run, and wants the Election Commissioner replaced and the caretaker government disbanded and replaced with a mutually agreed figures to oversee the run-up to polls.

Earlier this week she said Musharraf should quit, and ruled out any chance of serving as prime minister under his presidency, although the United States had earlier helped broker an understanding for them to share power following an election.

Speaking to America's Public Broadcasting Service television's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," Bhutto said Negroponte should seek an orderly transition of power from Musharraf.

"I believe engaging with General Musharraf is just to set myself up for failure again," she said.

"He's not a bad man... He must think of Pakistan now and if it's in Pakistan's best interest, he must quit. If he doesn't, I'm afraid the instability will continue."

Musharraf's camp still wants the support of Bhutto's PPP, the opposition party with the strongest national support base.

But it is unclear whether it would go back to holding out the prospect of the PPP getting the post of prime minister.

While the president's side formerly had been willing to countenance a PPP prime minister, it had never committed to accepting Bhutto as prime minister.

She has alienated Musharraf and his political allies in the PML by going on the offensive as soon as he allowed her to return last month from eight years of living abroad without fear of prosecution in old corruption cases.

Sources in the presidency say that aside from accusing members of the establishment of conspiring to kill her and of being secretly allied to militant and Islamist forces, she had also sought to reach out to chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Musharraf's decision to invoke an emergency on November3 was principally aimed at purging Supreme Court judges, including Chaudhry, before they could rule his October 6 re-election null and void because he contested while still army chief.

"The chief justice had thrown a spanner in the works, then Bhutto threw another spanner in," the Pakistani official said.

(Additional reporting by Sheree Sardar; Editing by David Fox)


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