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After deal, Pervez meets party top brass

Islamabad, July 30: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today held talks with the top brass of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) days after his meeting with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Musharraf’s talks with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, PML chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, chief minister Pervaiz Elahi and party secretary general Mushahid Hussain was held amid rumours that the President had clinched a power-sharing deal with Bhutto last Friday.

While Bhutto herself and a presidential spokesman did not confirm the deal, local media insisted that Musharraf returned home holding a “done deal” with Bhutto who, finally, has agreed to share power with the military strongman.

The English-language daily, The News, quoted reliable sources as saying that the deal had been sealed earlier between the two and the meeting in Abu Dhabi was actually a “kind of signing ceremony” which is conducted at the end of a long and tedious dialogue process.

According to the deal, Musharraf has decided to discard the chief of army staff post by the end of the year to give the countrymen a “New Year gift”, a close Musharraf aide, who is privy to the deal process, said.

The uniform is not an issue for Bhutto whose party will support Musharraf's re-election as President whilst he is still the chief of army staff.

According to the understanding between the two leaders, Musharraf will discard his uniform after being re-elected by the sitting Assemblies. The understanding, which was worked out through the President’s close aide and secretary of the National Security Council, Tariq Aziz, covers various parts with different phases to facilitate President Musharraf’s re-election for a second five-year term between September 15 and October 15 this year.

“Benazir has assured that her party legislators, both at parliament and the provincial assemblies, would abstain from the presidential election process without raising the issue of the uniform at any forum including the superior court,” the paper quoted a source as claiming.

Most government ministers and ruling party leaders are in the dark as to what prompted Musharraf to go to Abu Dhabi to meet Bhutto, whom he had previously dubbed as a “security risk”.

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