Issue No 69, Nov 30-Dec 6, 2003 | ISSN:1684-2057 | satribune.com

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Crucial Army-Opposition Talks Scheduled as Musharraf Makes Final Political Bid

Special SAT Report

ISLAMABAD: General Pervez Musharraf will make his last desperate bid to bring the religious parties around to accept his 4-year old rule next week when he meets MMA leaders with the promise that he would take off his uniform within a year.

Reports here say agreement on almost all other contentious points has been reached as Musharraf is feeling increasing pressure from abroad and from within, where major political parties have announced Dec 18 as the cut off date to table constitutional amendments in the Parliament. They will then launch a countrywide movement against the government.

“Finally the whole dialogue is stuck on only one issue, as Musharraf has agreed to give up his intransigent posture on other matters. This issue is whether he would give any undertaking in writing as to when he would quit the post of the Army Chief,” insiders told South Asia Tribune.

If the Opposition makes him agree to present the LFO in the Parliament for approval, it would be a major success for the democratic forces, but all will still depend on whether General Musharraf submits himself to constitutional rule.

Among the points conceded by the Government are presenting the LFO amendments before the Parliament, something Musharraf has been resisting for months, throwing the entire political process in a limbo.

There are said to be 31 amendments which will be brought before the Parliament and Musharraf hopes to convince the MMA leaders that they should vote for adopting these amendments trusting him on his word that he would take off his uniform before December 2004.

“The issue is whether the MMA leaders would be duped by another empty promise by the General who has gone back on so many of his promises made to so many people, including foreign governments,” a PPP leader said in Islamabad.

According to leading Pakistani newspaper ‘The Nation’, “a secret official strategy is in place to make last year’s disputed 31 amendments of General Pervez Musharraf as formally part of the Constitution through two thirds parliamentary vote.”

The paper quoted a member of the government negotiating team saying the government had agreed in principle to table the whole LFO (31 amendments) in the Parliament with many “ifs and buts” largely depending on favorable political situation.

“Yes presenting the entire LFO in Parliament was the understanding we had reached with government team,” recalled Liaqat Baloch, member of MMA’s negotiating team. Baloch confirmed to The Nation but the deadlock was on his uniform.

The Nation said if the government objectively concedes to the otherwise extra-constitutional Musharraf government, “it would unleash enormous political backlash for Musharraf.”

Nation reported that the stage had been set for the top leaders to announce the final decision and take the bill before Parliament.

Sources believed that the next two weeks were crucial in which big decisions are to be taken by both the political forces and the government.

President PML (QA) Ch. Shujaat Hussain is also arriving on Tuesday morning and process of reconciliation between the two major stakeholders is expected to resume then.

The MMA and the government are said to have reached an agreement with some minor details being worked out. It has also being decided that both the MMA and the government will jointly present the bill before Parliament after consensus.

President will meet the top politicians on December 6 to make the final promise on his uniform. The Nation said “he would give some undertaking to MMA and other political leaders on the issue of uniform, taking the credit himself for the breakthrough.”

Senator SM Zafar was quite hopeful of clinching a deal with MMA, saying there are ample possibilities of a deal given the ground realities. ‘The ground work is being laid out and final decision will be taken by the committee of heads of parties’, he commented.

The MMA has already given December 18 deadline to the government for presenting the proposed constitutional package before the Parliament, otherwise an agitation movement along with other opposition parties, the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) would be launched.

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