Bhutto to return on Oct. 18, Govt. says she won't be deported
ISLAMABAD, Saturday (AP) - Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto will return home next month to press for the restoration of democracy, regardless of the outcome of her talks on sharing power with Pakistan's U.S.-allied military president, her party said.
The government, meanwhile, said Friday that Bhutto would not suffer the fate of political rival Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister who was swiftly expelled when he returned from exile Monday, but officials said she would have to face pending corruption charges.
|Bhutto’s Karachi supporters celebrate the announcement on Friday of their leader's return. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)
Bhutto, who left Pakistan eight years ago amid the corruption allegations, has been negotiating with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on the possibility of combining their political forces to share power after elections.
Musharraf, also head of Pakistan's military, is seeking allies in his effort to win election by parliament to a new presidential term. He has seen his popularity slide this year after he tried to remove the Supreme Court's popular chief judge and Islamic militants stepped up attacks.
Both Bhutto and Musharraf are urging moderates to work together to defeat Taliban and al-Qaeda extremists based along the frontier with Afghanistan. But they have failed to produce an accord, amid signs Musharraf is reluctant to give up the sweeping powers he seized in a 1999 coup.
Bhutto, 56, said Pakistan needs to return to civilian rule as it prepares for parliamentary elections that must be held by January.
''This will strengthen our efforts for democracy,'' Bhutto, who lives in exile in Dubai and London, said later on Pakistan's Geo television. ''Democracy should be restored completely and the army removed from the scene.''
The Pakistan People's Party said Bhutto would fly into Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city and the capital of her home province of Sindh, on Oct. 18.
Bhutto was only 35 when she became prime minister in 1988, the first female leader of a modern Muslim nation. She was elected to a second term in 1993.
|Timeline of upcoming events
Pakistan's political direction and the future of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf will be decided in the next four months.
These are key dates for presidential and parliamentary elections:
- Sept. 15 - Oct.15: A presidential election, conducted by an electoral college comprised of all provincial and federal lawmakers, is to be held within these dates, unless Musharraf dissolves Parliament and calls early parliamentary elections. The presidential vote would then be conducted by the new assemblies.
- Oct. 7: The deputy chief of the army is to retire. The general that Musharraf promotes to this post will be in the leading position to replace him if he steps down as army chief.
- Oct. 18: Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who is in talks with Musharraf over a potential power-sharing deal, is to return to Pakistan from eight-year exile.
- Nov. 15: Musharraf's five-year presidential term and the term of the sitting Parliament expire.
- Jan. 14: The latest possible date for general elections.