Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on Tuesday urged President Pervez Musharraf to present a power-sharing reform package by the end of August, saying her party was becoming jittery with approaching elections.
"I have shared with General Musharraf that my party is getting very upset, because elections are around the corner, and that, by the end of this month, we really need to know where we stand," she told the American PBS television network.
"We either have a package or we don’t have a package," she said. "And if we have a package, well, then, we need the measures that we’ve agreed upon to come into play."
Bhutto, who served as Pakistan’s prime minister from 1988-1990 and 1993-1996, offered her view after she was asked by the US network how long it would take for her to conclude that Musharraf was not serious about sharing power with her.
Leading the highly influential Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from exile in London and Dubai, Bhutto met with Musharraf in an unannounced session in Abu Dhabi last month but neither has publicly admitted to the meeting.
The session was aimed at discussing a possible power-sharing deal ahead of presidential elections between September 15 to October 15 and general elections late this year or in early 2008.
Bhutto said if she was not able to cut a deal with Musharraf, she still intended to return to Pakistan and campaign for her party and join other moderate political parties "to try and bring about a transition.
"I hope it doesn’t come to a breakdown in the negotiations between General Musharraf and the PPP. But, at the end of the day, we can’t afford to be contaminated by his unpopularity without getting the price for democracy," she said.
US officials believe that an alliance with Bhutto would be Musharraf’s best chance of remaining president, reports have said, noting declining domestic support for Musharraf, a key US "war on terror" ally.
The White House had said that top US officials had met with major Pakistani political players recently in an effort to bring about "a moderate political center" and free and fair elections there.
Bhutto dismissed reports that the United States was behind a "plot" to forge the power-sharing deal but acknowledged that Washington was being kept informed of developments.
"There’s no great US plot, as speculated in some of the Pakistani press, to put together General Musharraf and the Pakistan People’s Party, but certainly the United States has a key interest in the stability of Pakistan.
"None of those reforms, other than transparent ballot boxes, have actually been enacted. So, now there’s a nervousness within my party that, if they haven’t been enacted, and we are on the eve of a general election, then when are they going to be enacted?," she said.
As for criticism that by forging an alliance with the military ruler, she was "selling out" to Musharraf, Bhutto said, "What we are seeking is a compromise that could help bring about a stable, democratic, civilian order in Pakistan.
"And it’s for the people of Pakistan then to vote in the party or the leaders they would like to see lead them."