Bhutto calls for neutral caretaker government

Benazir Bhutto called on President General Pervez Musharraf to consult with major parties before naming a caretaker administration to govern until elections are held next year.

Image Credit:AP
Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto waves to supporters who had gathered at Sukkar airport, near Larkana, before leaving for Karachi yesterday.
Gulf News

Larkana: Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto called on President General Pervez Musharraf yesterday to consult with major parties before naming a caretaker administration to govern until elections are held next year.

"This is how fair and free elections can be ensured," Bhutto told reporters at the close of a three-day visit to her political stronghold in southern Pakistan.

Bhutto's comments, broadcast by the Geo news channel, come ahead of an expected announcement this month by Musharraf on a caretaker government to lead the country before parliamentary elections which are due by January.

Under the constitution, Musharraf must appoint the temporary government by the time the current term of parliament expires on November 15. None of its members would be eligible to contest seats in the vote.

Bhutto was expected to board a plane later in the day to return to her base in the Karachi.

Alliance talks

Bhutto, who led two governments between 1988 and 1996, returned to Pakistan on October 18 after an eight-year exile following talks with Musharraf on a possible alliance to fight Islamist extremists after the elections. Suicide bombers shattered her homecoming, killing nearly 140 people who gathered to welcome her.

Over the weekend, Bhutto made her first trip outside Karachi, visiting her ancestral village near Larkana and paying homage at her father's tomb. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was Pakistan's first popularly elected leader, overthrown by the military and hanged in 1979.

Yesterday afternoon, hundreds of workers from Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party gathered at the airport at Sukkar, a city near Larkana, to see her off.

Later Ijaz Durani, a spokesman at her Karachi residence, confirmed she had arrived there safely.

She says she will soon travel to Lahore and Islamabad, and that she also wants to visit Pakistan-controlled parts of Kashmir and tribal areas along the Afghan border where the Taliban and al-Qaida are tightening their grip.

A government lawyer told the Supreme Court yesterday that overturning military ruler Pervez Musharraf's victory in a presidential election would not be in the country's interests.

The court is hearing challenges against Musharraf's huge win in the October 6 vote by the national and provincial parliaments, which was boycotted by most of the opposition. It is expected to rule later this week.

The appeals argue that Musharraf was ineligible to stand for another five-year term while keeping his role as army chief, and that the vote should not have been carried out by the current, outgoing parliaments.

Attorney General Malik Mohammad Qayyum told the 11-judge bench that Musharraf had already promised to quit the military by the time his current term ends, on November 15. "Since the president is to give up his uniform before taking oath for the second term in just a matter of days, any interference will not be merited and in public interest at this juncture," he told the court.

The court had ruled the day before the election that the vote could go ahead, but stipulated that no official notification of the result could be announced until after it had decided on the appeals.