A nominee of exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto may become Pakistan's deputy prime minister under a political deal being worked out with President Pervez Musharraf.
The Nation newspaper said on Tuesday that Makhdoom Amin Fahim, a leading light of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Bhutto, had been offered the deputy prime ministership in 2002 and might get the offer again.
This post may pave the way for a post-poll power-sharing formula that would take in parties and individuals being dubbed as 'liberals' by the media, which is speculating that this would keep the 'nationalists' of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz or PML-N of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, in the opposition.
Primarily, commentators have said this is meant to keep religion-based parties and rightwing groups out of power.
The 'deal' worked out last week when Musharraf and Bhutto met in Abu Dhabi envisages the latter facilitating the former's re-election to the presidency. However, the tussle over whether Musharraf would doff his military uniform prior to that persists.
Bhutto's statement of not accepting "the president in uniform", said the official, was part of a verbal understanding between the two so that her vote bank might not get hurt because of the scathing response in the country, especially from her party leaders over the deal, The News said onTuesday.
Quoting political sources, the Nation newspaper said the power-sharing arrangement would include the Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid or PML-Q and others in the present ruling coalition, with PPP playing the leading role.
However, analysts have noted that PML-Q is essentially a conglomerate of those who were with Bhutto earlier and with the PML-N, making them strange bedfellows.
Contrary to media reports over the weekend, Musharraf did not make any announcement of the 'deal' and in fact, asked PML-Qaid members, unnerved about it, "not to talk" till the arrangement was fully worked out, The News said.
PML-Q leaders went into a huddle with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, when they reportedly expressed grave reservations about the deal. They also expressed anguish at being taken for granted after having 'defended' Musharraf for five years, media reports said.
Pressed to take a stand on the deal by party men, Aziz said that communication and dialogue with other parties was a continuous process in order to ensure free and fair elections.
"It is our desire to pave the way for peaceful elections through mutual consultations," Aziz was quoted as saying.
"We see equal share of all allies of Musharraf in the next government with the PPP getting a lead role through a marginal majority," a senior political source said.
"It is not true that PPP is going to replace PML-Q as Musharraf's main political force but everyone will be having due share in the next government," the source said.