Musharraf asks Bhutto to delay return

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Islamabad, Oct 11 (UNI) In a significant move, President Pervez Musharraf has asked former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to put off her return to Pakistan.

In an interview to private ARYONE TV, Gen Musharraf said she should postpone the visit until after the Supreme Court's ruling on his eligibility for the presidential election.

''It is not a good time,'' he said about the October 18 date set by Ms Bhutto for her return.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear petitions challenging Musharraf's candidacy from October 17.

However, Ms Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party spokesman Farhatullah Babar told reporters she would return to the country as scheduled.

''There is no change in her plans and she would arrive in Karachi on October 18,'' he added.

Meanwhile, Dawn newspaper quoted Gen Musharraf as denying that the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which gave Ms Bhutto and her party leaders amnesty in several corruption cases had been promulgated to please the two-time premier.

''The NRO is a normal and ordinary ordinance aimed at ending confrontation and politics of vengeance,'' he said, adding that the NRO was for ''everyone and for every party''.

Gen Musharraf said he was unhappy over the PPP's decision to boycott the presidential election.

He, however, appreciated the party's decision against resigning from the assemblies, terming it a ''positive move.'' He reiterated his resolve to retire as Army Chief by November 15.

However, in reply to a question about his plans in the event of the Supreme Court declaring his election unconstitutional, he said he would decide when the time comes.

Gen Musharraf said the country was on the road to civilian rule after the presidential election.

He said he was re-elected as president purely on merit. He said the government enjoyed majority in all assemblies except the NWFP, but ''the number of votes I got there as well as in Balochistan are beyond my expectations.'' UNI XC SS GC1700

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