An amnesty for former Pakistani prime minister and other politicians facing corruption cases has been announced today, reports the New York Times.
This clears the way for a long-negotiated power-sharing agreement that would allow him to stand for re-election Saturday and for Ms. Bhutto to return for parliamentary elections at the end of the year.
The ordinance was agreed by the cabinet but was still awaiting General Musharraf’s signature, local news channels reported late Thursday night.
The amnesty, which would cover all politicians, bankers and bureaucrats charged with corruption offenses during the civilian governments before 1999, is a central demand of Ms. Bhutto, who is planning to return to Pakistan Oct. 18 from self-imposed exile to run for prime minister. As the presidential election has neared, she has accused General Musharraf of stalling, and warned that her party would join the opposition boycott of the election, if the presidential ordinance was not signed.
But late tonight Ms. Bhutto agreed to the final version of the Reconciliation Ordinance, according to Farooq Naik, a senator and senior lawyer from her Pakistan Peoples Party who had been going through the text of the ordinance.
It was nearly the last possible moment. General Musharraf, who has faced opposition within the ruling party over the ordinance, has l one day left until the election Saturday. The Supreme Court is also hearing petitions against his eligibility to stand for election and is expected to give a verdict Friday.
The ordinance is part of a reconciliation package aimed at ushering in a new era of democracy, including fair and transparent elections, General Musharraf said in an interview with the English language television channel, Dawn News, tonight. Despite his many past criticisms of Ms. Bhutto for her alleged corruption, he said none of the cases had been proved over the years, and as the leader of a popular political party, she had a role to play in the return to democracy. He added that the ordinance was not intended just to benefit her, and that all political parties should take part in the elections.
“It will not only affect an individual, but it is a whole package ensuring free and fair elections, that is the package we are attempting,” General Musharraf said.
As part of the transition to democracy, he confirmed that he would resign his military post at the latest on Nov. 15, when his current presidential term expires. “You have to, one day, get into a transition for complete democracy, with the president without uniform and I think this is the right time,” he said.