Officials have denied that a deal has been reached between the government of General Pervez Musharraf and opposition politician Benazir Bhutto, but Islamabad is abuzz with rumours that there will be some important announcements by the end of the week.
There is talk that a new Chief of Army Staff will be nominated and a formal announcement will also be made about the date for the re-election of President Musharraf.
On Wednesday, Bhutto announced in London that an agreement had been reached under which Musharraf has agreed to resign from his military post prior to the general elections in the country. However, the President’s spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, has denied any such formal agreement.
The government has instead taken the line that the talks with Bhutto’s party are part of a larger process of political reconciliation. This is what ruling party MPs are also being told by the government. Information minister Muhammad Ali Durrani said on Thursday that the process of political reconciliation was “in progress” and it (the process) would not harm the Muslim League (Q) but will provide a road to fair elections.
Members of the ruling ML (Q) have expressed their reservations over the proposed deal with Bhutto. Many have told General Musharraf that they see no political future for themselves if an agreement is reached with the PPP. One minister has also resigned in protest.
Information minister Durrani said that President Musharraf, after taking the government into confidence, has started a process of “broader national reconciliation” and that no deal was being cut with a single political party, but efforts were underway to improve the political environment in the country by dialogue.
A report in The News, a national English language daily, on Thursday said that Musharraf is said to have accepted all the demands Bhutto put forward during two-day negotiations with the President’s aides in London.
The paper said that Musharraf has also agreed that in case of dissolution of a future parliament, both the president and the prime minister would go home and this new clause would be added to the Constitution after scrapping Article 58(2)b.
A top PPP leader confirmed that the dialogue between Musharraf and Benazir had been successful and the people of Pakistan would come to know about its details within the next few days as a full constitutional package agreed between the two sides would be tabled in parliament.
The paper said that that Lt-Gen Ashfaq Kiani, Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Javed and Tariq Aziz had held meetings with Benazir in London. Two top aides of Bhutto, Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Rehman Malik, were also part of the negotiations. Fahim and Malik are said to have played an important role in giving final touches to these new arrangements.