General to step down on Nov 15
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said that he will resign as army chief before November 15 and hoped by then Pakistan's political situation has settled "for the better". General Musharraf told a local TV channel that he was talking to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto as part of a larger dialogue to engage moderate political forces.
However, Bhutto has responded coolly to the government offer of an amnesty. She wants the government to allow her a third chance at prime minister, currently barred under the Constitution.
On Wednesday, President Musharraf also chaired a meeting in Islamabad where details of an agreement were finalised for a deal with Bhutto. "We have decided to grant Bhutto amnesty and withdraw cases against her," Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani told reporters in Islamabad.
Talking to the media from London where her party's central executive committee is meeting, Bhutto denied any headway in talks with the government and insisted that the discussions had in fact "stalled".
She did, however, point out that whatever understanding had to be reached, it would be done before October 6, when President Musharraf seeks re-election as president.
The announcement of a new army chief-in-waiting and the offer of an amnesty package to politicians by the Pakistan government is not being seen as a coincidence but as planned step which form part of a larger deal, political analysts have said.
Syed Jawaid Iqbal, a political analyst, commented: "General Musharraf's government has answered the resignation of 163 parliamentarians in both the national and provincial assemblies with two political moves of their own."
Officials said on Wednesday that Musharraf is willing to share power with Benazir Bhutto's party if it wins enough seats in the next parliamentary elections. Musharraf, who is seeking another five-year term, has held talks with Bhutto — who served twice as prime minister between 1988 and 1996 but saw her governments fall amid allegations of corruption and misrule — over a possible power-sharing agreement.
The government indicated earlier that it was ready to pardon Bhutto, clearing her way to participate in politics eight years after she left Pakistan to avoid arrest in corruption cases registered by her old political rival, exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.