Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto talks about plans to return to her home country, Pakistan's political strife and a possible power-sharing agreement with President Pervez Musharraf.
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The South Asian nation of Pakistan, one of the linchpins in the U.S.-led war on terror, is in political turmoil. From pro-democracy lawyers marching in the streets, to angry Islamic militants in the mosques and the country's hinterlands, to criticism from U.S. intelligence over letting Pakistan's tribal regions become a haven for the Taliban and a resurgent al-Qaida, President Pervez Musharraf has been under enormous pressure. Ten days ago, he briefly considered imposing a state of emergency until dissuaded by Washington.
Stepping now into this uncertain mix is a once-familiar face on the Pakistani political scene, the exiled two-term former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She is trying for a political comeback through a power-sharing deal with Musharraf that would let her return to run for prime minister again, while he is re-elected to the presidency he seized in a military coup eight years ago.
The Harvard-educated Bhutto was first elected prime minister in 1988, the first elected woman leader of any Muslim nation. It was a personal triumph for the 35-year-old Bhutto, whose father, a former president of Pakistan, had been executed by a military government nine years earlier.
But after just two years, she was ousted by the president and military amid charges of corruption against both her and her businessman husband. She won the prime ministry again in 1993 and was toppled again in 1996 on charges of corruption.
Yet Bhutto still leads the Pakistan People's Party, or PPP. Polls suggest it could win the most seats in parliament later this year if elections are free and fair. After months of back-channel negotiations, Bhutto and Musharraf reportedly met late last month in Abu Dhabi to discuss conditions for a deal.
While in New York on private business this month, she's been meeting with senior Bush administration and U.N. officials. I spoke with her there today.
Madam Bhutto, thanks for joining us.
BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Pakistani Prime Minister: