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Musharraf to drop cases against Sharif

Islamabad, Oct. 3 (Reuters): Less than a month after deporting former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Jeddah, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today said he would drop cases pending against the Opposition leader.

Musharraf, who is seeking re-election for a second five-year term in Saturday’s presidential ballot, said he wanted to withdraw cases against Sharif and other leaders under the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

Sharif landed at Islamabad airport on September 10 after seven years in exile only to be deported to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday, the Pakistan government offered to drop all corruption charges against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who has vowed to return to Pakistan on October 18.

Replying to questions during an interview with the private Geo TV channel, the President said: “I am expecting I will be elected on October 6. And I have the constitutional right (to wear the uniform) till November 15. Let us see in the intervening period.”

Musharraf has vowed to step down as head of the military before being sworn in for a new presidential term, and yesterday named former intelligence chief Lieutenant General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to take the post.

When pressed for a date when he would vacate the army chief’s post, Musharraf said: “Well, one can’t comment. Everything I will decide after October 6.”

However, there is still no certainty that Saturday’s vote will go ahead, as the supreme court is considering a last-ditch bid by opponents to block Musharraf’s re-election on grounds that as a serving soldier he should not be allowed to stand.

Benazir talks hit

In London today, Bhutto said power-sharing talks with Musharraf had stalled and she expected her party’s MPs to resign.

“Most probably,” she said when asked if that would be the decision. “I think that the resignation of the Pakistan People’s Party MPs will be a severe blow to the legitimacy of the presidential elections,” she said in London.

Parliament and provincial Assemblies are expected on Saturday to re-elect Musharraf as President. More than 80 Opposition MPs have resigned in protest against his standing for re-election while army chief. Although the PPP is the largest Opposition faction, it is not in a position to stop his re-election. But it could damage the credibility of the process if it boycotted the vote.

“We don’t want to resign. We don’t want to take this step, but certainly we are being pushed into taking this step by the inability of the present regime to move towards the democratisation of Pakistan,” Bhutto said.

The former Prime Ministers said she expected the final decision to be taken by her party tomorrow. Bhutto accused the military leader of failing to deliver on promises of a return to democracy. “The People’s Party is not in the business of saving military dictatorships. We want to save democracy,” Bhutto, 54, said.

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