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Bhutto cancels trip abroad amid emergency rumours

world Updated: Nov 05, 2007 19:23 IST

AFP
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Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto said on Wednesday she had postponed a planned trip to Dubai because of rumours that President Pervez Musharraf may impose a state of emergency.

Bhutto returned to Pakistan from eight years in self-exile on October 18. Hours later, her homecoming parade in the southern city of Karachi was targeted by a suicide bombing that killed 139 people.

"I have postponed my plans to go to Dubai to see my family and children after rumours and speculations about an emergency in Pakistan," Bhutto told a news conference at her home in Karachi.

"I consulted with party officials and decided to stay," she said.

Bhutto said the emergency rumours were in connection with a Supreme Court decision expected later this week on whether military ruler Pervez Musharraf's victory in an October 6 presidential election was valid.

Musharraf, a key US ally who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, had pledged to step down as army chief by November 15 if he won the election but has not said what he would do if the court overturns his victory.

Bhutto said her decision to postpone her visit was "due to rumours of the possible imposition of an emergency in view of the pending cases before the Supreme Court about General Musharraf's elections."

There was no immediate reaction from the government on Bhutto's comments.

Musharraf nearly put Pakistan under a state of emergency in August amid a wave of Islamist violence and mounting political turmoil, including a bruising confrontation with Pakistan's chief justice.

The Karachi bombings have further raised the political temperature, and allegations by Bhutto have thrown into doubt a possible power-sharing deal between her and Musharraf.

Bhutto on Wednesday welcomed a move by chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to conduct an inquiry into the attacks, after the judge expressed impatience with the slow pace of the police investigation.

"We would welcome the SC's move... and reject the government-formed inquiry because we believe it would be inadequate and devoid of foreign expertise," Bhutto said.

Bhutto has alleged that rogue security and government officials were involved in the attack and called on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Britain's Scotland Yard to be allowed to take part in the probe.

The government has rejected calls for foreign help in the investigation.

The two-time premier's Pakistan People's Party had earlier said she was likely to fly to Dubai, where her husband Asif Ali Zardari, her three children and her mother are based.

A party official in the Gulf emirate had said she was due to arrive on Wednesday evening, while officials in Pakistan were more circumspect.

Bhutto fled Pakistan in 1999 to avoid a raft of corruption charges that she said were politically motivated.

The government recently gave her an amnesty to allow her to return and pave the way for power-sharing with Musharraf, although neither side has commented on the likelihood of that happening since the bombings.