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Bhutto-Sharif alliance runs into trouble

The alliance forged between the former PMs appears to have run into trouble over Benazir's acknowledged contacts with President Musharraf.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2006 18:35 IST

The alliance forged recently between former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to "defeat the military regime" in Pakistan appears to have run into trouble over Bhutto's acknowledged contacts with President Pervez Musharraf.

Ahead of the October 19 meeting in London between the two former arch rivals who live in exile abroad, Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said it could be their "last meeting" if differences were not resolved.

"The October 19 meeting between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif is very important.

I think, it will be the last meeting between the two if differences persist even after the talks," PML-N chairman and Sharif's close confidant Raja Zafarul Haq told media on Thursday.

Even though Haq did not outline the "differences", PML-N leaders have been saying the continued "backchannel" contacts between Musharraf's confidants and Bhutto even after she signed a charter of democracy with Sharif few months ago cannot go together.

While the media here has periodically reported of such contacts, Bhutto herself recently acknowledged the backchannel talks but reiterated there was no change in her stand that Musharraf should quit the post of army chief and hold free and fair polls.

Without naming anyone, Haq said "some parties which tried to make a deal with the Musharraf regime are now disappointed".

He made the remarks at a function organised here on in connection with "black day" observed by PML-N on the anniversary of the 1999 military takeover.

The party, however, has now been relegated to the third position after 20-odd of its MPs defected to support ruling pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) coalition which formed the government with a one-vote majority in 2002.

PPP alleges that a number of them had been coerced to defect by the intelligence agencies.

PPP has also questioned assertions by Musharraf that he would not allow Bhutto and Sharif to take part in the next year's general elections.

"It is for the people of Pakistan, and not for any individual, to decide who shall represent and lead them in the elections," the party said in a statement here.

Musharraf, in his Iftar dinner to the media, had said he would hold the elections, but would not permit the two take part in them.

PPP leaders, while expressing anger and outrage over Haq's comments acknowledged that there was enormous pressure being exerted on Bhutto by United States to compromise with Musharraf who insists that she remain abroad and let PPP join the PML-Q coalition after next year's general elections.

Bhutto, in turn, is reportedly pressing for dropping dozen-odd cases of corruption filed by the previous Sharif regime against her and her husband Asif Ali Zardari.

Despite the alliance with Sharif, PPP differed with PML-N's plans to form a grand alliance with the Islamist Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) which it slams as fundamentalist forces that bailed out Musharraf whenever he was in trouble.

First Published: Oct 13, 2006 18:24 IST