Islamabad, Sept. 14: Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will return from an eight-year exile on October 18 to campaign in Pakistan’s general elections, her party said today.
However, the government said Benazir is free to return but will have to face corruption cases. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) vice-president Makhdoom Amin Fahim announced Benazir’s return at a news conference in Islamabad. He feared that Benazir may be arrested after she returns to Pakistan. “The government can do anything in frustration,” Fahim said.
Bhutto served as Prime Minister twice between 1988 and 1996. She has led her party from exile in London and Dubai since leaving Pakistan in 1999 over the corruption allegations. Observers feel that Bhutto risks a backlash among the public and her party if she seals a power-sharing deal with President Pervez Musharraf and her party.
Earlier, a government spokesman said that Bhutto will not be deported in the manner of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a government spokesman said. Sharif was expelled hours after he flew in from London on Monday.
Deputy information minister Tariq Azim drew a clear distinction between the rights of Sharif and Bhutto to return to Pakistan. “Nawaz Sharif’s case was different. He went back to Saudi Arabia because of an undertaking he had with the Saudi government,” Azim said. “She (Bhutto) was always allowed to come back.”
Asked about pending corruption cases against Bhutto, he added: “It’s for the law to take its own course. Everybody has to face cases against them and the same applies to her.”
Bhutto’s party conveyed to Musharraf, who is seeking a second term as President, that they will not be able to support him if he failed to show flexibility on a set of demands made by the PPP.
Bhutto wants a repeal of the presidential powers to dissolve the National Assembly, amendment in the Constitution that will allow her to become Prime Minister for the third time and withdrawal of corruption cases against her. “It will be like surrender if Musharraf agrees to these demands,” a senior official told The Telegraph.