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Bhutto cautious on party role

London, Oct. 12: Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party may not cooperate with General Musharraf’s military administration, the exiled leader said today in London.

Bhutto was cautious when asked whether she would ask the elected members of the PPP — it has done well though not as well as it might have hoped for in the general election in Pakistan — in the National Assembly to boycott Musharraf.

Bhutto, who had been warned by Musharraf that she faced arrest if she attempted to return to Pakistan to participate in the elections, said: “To say (to my party) to work with the military dictator, who trampled the constitution, is very difficult for me. However, I would like to add a caveat: that there is a law and I would ask my party to work within that law and I would ask General Musharraf also to respect that law.”

Asked why she was still in the political game despite twice being ousted from power, the former Prime Minister responded: “I believe I have a mission for the democratisation of my country. I believe I have a mission to build a modern and democratic Pakistan.”

When it was pointed out that none of her governments had actually worked, she argued: “You say it did not work and there are people who would agree with you. But the people of Pakistan have a different view. They feel that I provided them stability, democracy, human rights, free markets and free opportunity and that’s why, despite my being subjected to a smear campaign and being in exile, the people stood by me and I thank them. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

Bhutto appeared to have forgotten that the British press has been full of reports of the wealth she had amassed outside Pakistan and invested, for example, in property in Britain. She reckoned she and her opposite number in India in the late 1980s, Rajiv Gandhi, could have taken their respective countries into an era of reconciliation.

“I do believe we would have made great strides forward,” she said. “I believe if I was Prime Minister of Pakistan today, I could give my country peace within and peace on the borders. But unfortunately, elections have been rigged and foreign policy will continue to be dominated by the military and the generals will have to take full responsibility for what is happening on the borders.”

Modesty is not one of her virtues. Bhutto, who was speaking to the Asia Today programme on BBC World, still believed she offered the only solution for Pakistan. “The hope that I give the people of South Asia is that if I stay involved in Pakistan, there is hope for peace within and peace on the borders but if my leadership is crushed then the forces of extremism and militancy will have an open field.” She added: “The generals, with their vision of an unstable and uncertain borders and nuclear brinkmanship, will triumph. My leadership is the sole hope to the people of South Asia.”

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