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Pakistan's Bhutto says to oppose emergency rule

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Nov 3 (Reuters) Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said today she planned to discuss with other political leaders a strategy for reversing President Pervez Musharraf's decision to suspend the constitution.

''People want leadership. I came back to the country so that I could encourage the people, raise their morale,'' Bhutto told Sky News after flying back to Pakistan from Dubai.

''I plan to meet with other leaders of political parties and discuss with them a course of action to reverse the suspension of the constitution,'' she said by telephone from Karachi.

Musharraf earlier imposed emergency rule, deploying troops and sacking a top judge in a bid to reassert his flagging authority against political rivals and Islamist militants.

Instead of moving towards democracy, Pakistan was moving backwards towards greater dictatorship, Bhutto said.

She said she believed emergency rule was designed to delay elections, due in January.

''I believe General Musharraf and people who are under him want to use this emergency to delay elections and they want to delay elections for at least one to two years,'' she said.

''They think the American presidential election is coming, America is going to be diverted, its attention is going to be on its own presidential race and then there will be a a new (US) administration, it will take about a year for the new administration to settle in,'' she said.

''We very much want elections to be held on schedule but unless the constitution provisions that have been suspended are restored it's going to be very difficult to have fair elections,'' she said.

Bhutto urged the international community to put pressure on Musharraf to reverse his decision so that free and fair elections could be held.

''We'd like the international community to tell General Musharraf: Reverse your order suspending the constitution, reverse your order with regard to the judiciary and accept the decision of the court,'' he said.

She said she knew there were dangers in her returning to Pakistan and she did not know if she would be arrested.

''I am taking this risk for a much larger cause and that's the cause of my nation,'' she said.

She said that unless Musharraf could move Pakistan towards stable institutions, ''then I'm afraid the threat of chaos internally will remain.'' Militants in Pakistan were a small, but strident, minority, she said. ''It's democracy that can mobilise the middle ground,'' she said.


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