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Musharraf, Bhutto reach deal on uniform issue: Pak minister
August 29, 2007 18:17 IST
In a major step towards a possible power-sharing deal, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [Images] have reached an agreement on the general giving up his army position. "Both sides have agreed on the issue of uniform," Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, considered close to the general, announced at a news conference.
"There is no more a uniform issue. It has been settled and the president will make an announcement about it an appropriate time," he said. However, the minister added that there were still some outstanding issues to be resolved between the two sides.
His remarks follow an interview of Bhutto to a British daily in which she said the president, who is seeking re-election for a five-year term, has agreed to resign as army chief.
Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and Musharraf's representatives have been holding talks in an attempt to reach a political understanding. The self-exiled former premier and Musharraf met in Abu Dhabi recently and reportedly discussed the possibility of a power-sharing deal.
"We are close to an agreement (on sharing of power) but we are still not there. However, the uniform issue has been resolved. Musharraf has agreed to resign as army chief," Bhutto told The Daily Telegraph. "The uniform issue is the key and there has been a lot of movement on it in the recent round of talks," she said, while referring to negotiations currently going on between "Musharraf's emissaries and her party" in London [Images].
Although Bhutto did not say when the president will quit as army chief, The Dawn daily reported that Musharraf had offered to doff his uniform even before the presidential polls slated for next month.
In an interview to London's Financial Times, another former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been permitted by the Supreme Court to return home from exile, said that he planned to come back within a fortnight and termed Bhutto's attempts to reach a political deal with Musharraf as a "setback."
The two former prime ministers had signed a 'Charter of Democracy' in London in which they had agreed not to have any deal with "military dictators."
Sharif said Bhutto's attempts for a power-sharing deal were a "clear violation" of their agreement.
Musharraf has suffered a series of legal setbacks ever since the failed attempt to remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar M Chaudhry.
Also, the apex court Wednesday admitted a petition by the chief of Islamic alliance Muttahida Majlis-e Amal, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, against the general's continuation as the army chief despite attaining the age of retirement, which is 60 years, four years back.
The MMA chief told reporters that Musharraf's rule since he seized power in a bloodless Army coup in 1999 was "unconstitutional, immoral and illegal."
"He (Musharraf) has jeopardised everything � the Constitution, the laws - and therefore it is time for the Supreme Court to set the house right," he said.