| (Top) Radical students put a red coat of paint on the dome of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad on Friday and workers whitewash the dome on Saturday. (Reuters)
Islamabad, July 28 (AP): President Pervez Musharraf held secret talks with Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a government minister said today.
Initial reports suggested there was no breakthrough in the talks on a key issue for Bhutto, who insists Musharraf must quit his military post if he hopes to remain President.
Minister for railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the President and Bhutto “held a successful meeting” in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi on Friday. He would not elaborate on the subject of the talks.
Bhutto, speaking by phone with Pakistani television station KTN, repeatedly dodged the question when asked if she had met Musharraf.
“Let’s talk of something else,” she said from London. “Whatever we have done and are doing it is for democracy and social and economic rights of the people of Pakistan.”
But she reiterated her insistence that Musharraf should quit the military. “Our stand is that, and I stick to my stand, that we do not accept President Musharraf in uniform,” she said.
Pakistani newspapers and television networks reported Musharraf and Bhutto discussed a possible power-sharing deal in a meeting that lasted about an hour and ended without agreement.
However, last night the talks appeared to have stalled over Musharraf’s insistence that he should be allowed to retain his dual role as army chief and President.
Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, the minister of parliamentary affairs, said it appeared the President and Bhutto were trying to negotiate a deal in which she would support his bid for another presidential term. In return, Musharraf would pave the way for her to return from exile and again become Premier.
Sharif not happy
Disapproving a meeting between between Bhutto and Musharraf, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said it “violated” the charter of democracy he had signed with the PPP chief.
“What I know is that it is a very clear violation of charter of democracy which we had both signed,” Sharif said. “The charter of democracy very clearly says that there can’t be any parleys with military dictators.”