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Musharraf claims Bhutto dodging elections: BBC

world Updated: Nov 17, 2007 10:37 IST

AFP
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Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf accused opposition leader Benazir Bhutto of wanting to avoid elections, saying her party unlikely to win, in a BBC interview.

After Bhutto earlier yesterday described the country's new caretaker government as "unacceptable" and "biased" Musharraf told the broadcaster that "It is she actually who may not be wanting elections in Pakistan.

"And it is she who may want to go on to the agitational war because she would not want to go into elections because her party is not in a state to win at all."

Snippets of Musharraf's comments were broadcast ahead of an expected meeting with visiting senior US diplomat John Negroponte, who spoke with Bhutto by telephone on yesterday.

Musharraf also hit out at foreign criticism of his rule since March. It was then that he first tried to sack Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

"Before March I was very good. Suddenly did I go mad after March or suddenly my personality changed, am I Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde or what is it?" he said.

"Am I such a person?

"Please go into the details, the causes. What I am doing? Have I done anything unconstitutionally legal? Yes, I did it on 3rd November.

Accusing judges and opposition parties of trying to "derail" the political and democratic process in Pakistan, Musharraf demanded an explanation for his portrayal in the Western media in recent months.

"Did I go mad..? Or suddenly, my personality changed? Am I Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?" he asked during the interview. "Have I done anything constitutionally illegal? Yes, I did it on November 3 (when he imposed emergency)."

"But did I do it before? Not once," said the General, who had seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999.

"Who is trying to derail the political and democratic process? Am I? Or is it some elements in the Supreme Court - the Chief Justice and his coterie... And now some elements in the political field?"

Musharraf was referring to sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar M Chaudhry and other judges who refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order issued by him on November 3.

The military ruler is due to meet US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who arrived in Islamabad yesterday in a bid to press the General to lift emergency.

After his arrival, Negroponte spoke over phone to Bhutto, telling her that "moderate forces" should work together to get Pakistan back to democracy.

Hours earlier, Bhutto rejected the caretaker government sworn in by Musharraf to guide the country through Parliamentary polls. "This caretaker government is an extension of the (ruling) PML-Q and is not acceptable."

The US had been hoping for Bhutto and Musharraf to work together but the former Pakistan Premier again appeared to rule this out.

"I can't see how I can team up with somebody who raises hopes and dashes them... He talked to me about a roadmap to democracy and imposed martial law," she said.