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UK, US involved in Pak-Bhutto deal: report
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October 08, 2007 15:38 IST

Britain and the United States have played a key role in helping President Pervez Musharraf [Images] to retain office for another five years and the "safe return" of self-exiled former premier Benazir Bhutto [Images] to Pakistan to share power with the military ruler, media reports said.

British and the US diplomats have met with leaders of a political party long at odds with Bhutto and encouraged it to show restraint when she returns to Karachi on October 18, according to The Independent.

The leadership of Muttahida Quami Movement party -- which was blamed for this year's violence in Karachi which left 41 dead -- has vowed to keep off the streets on her return.

Coverage: Pakistan polls, 2007

Quoting a Western diplomat, the report said British and the US officials had spoken with MQM officials in Karachi, Islamabad and London [Images] to ensure Bhutto's safe return.

"Because the MQM (leadership) is based in London the British are taking the lead and the Americans are working with them," he said.

Farooq Sattar, a senior member of the MQM, confirmed his party had spoken with British officials. He said he could not remember the specifics but said the MQM had publicly undertaken not to disrupt Bhutto's return.

A spokesman for the British High Commission in Islamabad played down its role in the negotiations. He said diplomats met with all of Pakistan's political parties "as a matter of course".

He, however, admitted Britain and the EU had "called on all parties to exercise restraint" on the occasion of Bhutto's return.

Details of the effort to smooth Bhutto's return came as General Musharraf called for national unity following the overwhelming vote that should secure him another five years as president.

"A majority� a vast majority� have voted for me and therefore result is the result," Musharraf said after winning in a vote by the national and regional assemblies.

A central part of the pre-election political horse-trading was a deal with Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party that paves the way for her to return and seek a historic third term as prime minister.

A bullet-proof limousine is to be flown in for her arrival. She told the Sunday Times: "I know there are security risks, people who want to kill me and scuttle the restoration of democracy."

In May, 11 PPP members were among 41 people killed during political violence in Karachi. Pakistani media and human rights campaigners blamed the MQM for instigating the riots.  The MQM -- whose leader Altaf Hussain lives in London, having left Pakistan where he faces murder charges -- has denied the accusation.

Noting that what leverage may have been exercised over the MQM is a matter of speculation, the report said that the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance signed by General Musharraf on Friday that cleared the way for Bhutto's return also wipes clear a raft of charges against other politicians, including MQM members.

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