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Ex-Pakistani Leader Says She'll Return Without Deal

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has said that she would like to strike a power-sharing agreement with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who has been under fire in recent months. A deal could help Musharraf stay in power and allow Bhutto to return to Pakistan from exile in London and Dubai.

The two parties don't have an agreement, but Bhutto tells Steve Inskeep that she'll return to Pakistan in mid-October anyway.

"I expect to be received by a lot of Pakistanis, who think that my arrival will signal a shift in Pakistani politics, will make a break with the past of the dictatorship and help facilitate my people's aspirations for democracy," she said.

Another former Pakistani prime minister tried to return to Pakistan last week. Nawaz Sharif was deported just hours after he landed in Islamabad.

Although there are outstanding corruption charges against Bhutto, she expects to be able to stay in the country and remain free on bail.

"I expect the Supreme Court of Pakistan to give me bail because the charges against me are frivolous and malicious and have remained unproven," she said. "What I'm unsure about is what the regime will do. They may allow me to campaign or they may try to restrict my movements."

Bhutto said she is disappointed that no agreement has been reached with Musharraf. She said she had been assured that he would leave his position as army chief before seeking re-election as president. Musharraf's lawyer told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that he would step down as head of the army if elected to another term.

Bhutto said saving democracy in the country is important because pro-Taliban forces have taken over its tribal areas and are trying to make inroads in the cities. Her party, the Pakistan People's Party, has a better record of fighting terrorism, using both law enforcement and help from the people of Pakistan, she said.

"The people who are hiding Osama bin Laden know it would be very difficult for them to do that if democracy brings the Pakistan People's Party back to government under my leadership," she said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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