Bhutto's party says it may work with Musharraf after election

Updated: 2008-01-15 07:22

Benazir Bhutto's political party said yesterday 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-Qaida 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 in a gun and suicide bomb attack on December 27 as she left a campaign rally.

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 matchup 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 February 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.

Fears of widespread vote-rigging have also led to speculation that the parties may not accept the results, triggering political turmoil and possible street violence

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.

Agencies

(China Daily 01/15/2008 page11)