Musharraf to keep Bhutto, Sharif out of poll fray

Islamabad, October 12:

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf declared that Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister he ousted seven years ago, and another exiled former premier, Benazir Bhutto, would not be allowed to contest the national elections he has promised next year.

On the seventh anniversary of the coup he staged in 1999, Musharraf yesterday did not give a clue about the talks his government is supposed to be having with Bhutto. His wanting to keep her out indicates that either she has not conceded ground or the alleged parleys are incomplete. Neither confirming nor denying that these talks are taking place through emissaries, he has kept his political adversaries guessing. Both, the government and Bhutto’s side, have vehemently denied that talks are taking place at all. But this has not stopped the political circles and the media from speculating.

Going by past experience, analysts say, such pre-poll parleys and speculations are typical of Pakistan’s political scene.

More particularly, past dictators Ayub Khan and Zia-ul Haq had also engaged in these to deal with detractors and consolidate their political bases.

Being wooed by the leaders of the West for combating terrorism, Musharraf rooted for what he calls “enlightened moderation” and against religious extremism and terrorism. If extremists win, Qaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan will be no more. “Moderates must win,” Musharraf was quoted as saying by The Nation newspaper.