21.01.2008 General News

Bhutto's party may work with Musharraf

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Nearly half of Pakistanis suspect that government agencies or government-linked politicians killed Bhutto, an opinion poll showed, highlighting the popular mistrust of the country's U.S.-allied president ahead of elections next month.

Benazir Bhutto's political party said it may work with Pakistan's president after elections next month despite the leader's apparent unpopularity and allegations elements within his government may have played a role in her death.

The comments highlight the fluid nature of Pakistani politics ahead of the polls, which the United States and other Western nations hope will usher in a period of stability as the country battles rising attacks by al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

Bhutto's party and the other main opposition grouping have intensified their calls for President Pervez Musharraf to resign since Bhutto was assassinated on Dec. 27.

But a spokesman for Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party said "all options are open" when asked whether it would cooperate with Musharraf. "These are bridges which we will cross when they come," Farhatullah Babar said, echoing remarks reported in Pakistani media by Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, now the de-facto head of the party.

Many analysts predict any cooperation between Musharraf and Bhutto's party would be short-lived and unstable, given likely opposition by the group's rank and file. But it would represent a match up of secular, moderate forces and, as such, could be welcomed by the United States and other Western nations.

Bhutto's party and the other major opposition grouping are expected to do well in the Feb. 18 parliamentary polls, but few analysts expect a single party will gain a majority. Opposition parties holding more than two-thirds of the seats can impeach the president, but this outcome is also seen as unlikely.

The polls, delayed for six weeks amid rioting triggered by the former prime minister's assassination, are seen as a key step in Pakistan's transition to democracy.

Bhutto was a secular politician popular in the U.S. and other Western countries for her opposition to hard-line Islam. The government has blamed her death on a prominent Taliban commander who had reportedly threatened to kill her.


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