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Pakistan's Bhutto Denies Any Deal to Win Release of Husband from Prison


Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto denies she struck a deal with the current government to secure here husband's release from jail, saying her political party will continue its opposition to the country's military president, Pervez Musharraf.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, currently living in self-imposed exile in Dubai, said in a statement Tuesday that officials from her political party had held "reconciliation talks" with representatives of the Pakistani government.

But Ms. Bhutto said those discussions had no connection to the release Monday of her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, after eight years in prison.

"There is no deal between the government and the Pakistan People's Party or Ms. Bhutto or Mr. Zardari," said Farooq Naek, a close aid of Ms. Bhutto's husband and a member of her Pakistan People's Party. It [the release] was a decision, a historic decision given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in all fairness, and justice has been done."

Speaking to reporters in Karachi shortly after his release, Mr. Zardari said he will return to politics and will remain in Pakistan. But he says he may go abroad to see his wife and three children. "I missed my wife and my children. I pray that she comes and meets me here, but I think I will have to go," he said.

Mr. Zardari was arrested following the removal of his wife and her government from power in November 1996. He was facing numerous charges ranging from corruption to murder, but had already been acquitted or granted bail in those other cases.

His release came after Pakistan's Supreme Court ordered that he be granted bail on a remaining charge of misuse of government funds.

Mr. Zardari's re-emergence on the political scene comes as opposition groups in parliament are preparing to launch a major anti-government campaign.

Ms. Bhutto's party is a member of that movement, which is demanding that President Musharraf step down as head of the military by the end of year. The opposition says that under the constitution, Mr. Musharraf cannot hold two offices.

After taking power in a military coup in 1999, General Musharraf was named president in a referendum, and he then held parliamentary elections. He promised to give up his military positions by the end of this year, but has indicated that he has changed his mind, and his critics accuse him of running a military dictatorship.

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