National Reconciliation Ordinance on cards to facilitate Bhutto

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Islamabad, Oct 4 (UNI) Hectic activity that was witnessed in the power corridors for the last two days to finalise a 'national reconciliation ordinance' seemed halted as a result of consultations at the highest level in Pakistan.

The ordinance is aimed at providing former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto indemnity in all corruption cases instituted for the period 1988-99.

Dawn newspaper quoted informed sources as saying President Pervez Musharraf had several rounds of talks with his political and legal aides, many of whom did not support the demands made by the self-exiled Bhutto.

One of Ms Bhutto's demands, the sources said, related to punishment for all those officials who had established cases against her. This was rejected on the grounds that it was not practicable.

A major hurdle in the deal, the sources said, was the government's reluctance to amend a law which prohibited anyone from becoming prime minister for third time.

Officials said the promulgation of the ordinance had been put off.

Chief of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, said his party was not ready to be part of a deal which would provide indemnity to the PPP chairperson from corruption cases.

He said that issues of uniform, third-term premiership and indemnity from court cases were discussed in the meeting with Gen Musharraf, but these remained inconclusive.

On efforts for a national reconciliation, the PML chief said the exercise was aimed at convincing all opposition parties to develop a code of conduct for holding a free and fair election.

Farahatullah Babar, spokesman for the PPP chairperson, was sceptical about the whole exercise as he saw little or no chance of the promulgation of the ordinance. However, officials said today that promulgation of such an ordinance is likely but when they were not really aware of.

Mr Babar said some sources had claimed that the government was seriously working on the formula provided by PPP's legal experts, but he was not hopeful of a positive outcome.

He said the PPP wanted President Musharraf to doff the uniform, lift ban on third-time premiership, strike a balance of power between the president and the prime minister and provide indemnity to all political leaders.

Mr Babar said his party had demanded a level playing field for all parties and return of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the country.


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