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Former PM Announces Return to Pakistan But May Face Corruption Charges


The political party of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has announced she will return to the country in October to take part in elections. Ms. Bhutto is the second exiled prime minister to attempt a return to Pakistan, and she may face corruption charges when she arrives. Daniel Schearf reports from Islamabad.

At a Friday press briefing and amid much fanfare from supporters, the vice chairman of Ms. Bhutto's political party, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, announced the former prime minister will return to Pakistan in October.

"I want to give you the date," he said. "The date is the 18th of October."

Ms. Bhutto, the first female prime minister to lead a Muslim nation in modern times, has been in self-imposed exile for eight years, because of corruption charges stemming from her time as prime minister.

Another former prime minister in exile, Nawaz Sharif, attempted a return to Pakistan earlier this week, but authorities deported him just a few hours after his arrival.

Ms. Bhutto, unlike Mr. Sharif, has been negotiating a power-sharing arrangement with Pakistan's president General Pervez Musharraf. Under a proposed agreement, the charges against her would be dropped and she would be allowed to run for a third term as prime minister.

In exchange, she would support Mr. Musharraf in his bid to retain the presidency for another five years.

Pakistan's Minister of State for Information Tariq Azim said Friday the two sides have yet to reach an agreement. He says he doubts Ms. Bhutto will be arrested on her return, as Mr. Sharif was, but she will have to face the charges against her.

"If somebody has got cases against them, they have to come and face them, even if they are trumped-up charges or charges which are politically motivated, as she claims they were," he said.

As part of the negotiation, Ms. Bhutto is also demanding that Mr. Musharraf give up his role as military chief and the presidential power to dismiss the prime minister, a power that was twice used against her and ended her stints as prime minister.

But Mr. Musharraf's ruling party, the PML-Q, is reluctant to share power with Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, which is believed to be the country's most popular party and could marginalize the PML-Q.

Ms. Bhutto's party is concerned she may lose some of that popular support by striking a deal with Mr. Musharraf, who has been criticized for his failed attempt to fire the country's chief justice earlier this year.

Mr. Musharraf is also facing criticism for failing to reign in Muslim extremists. Hundreds of people have been killed in a series of recent attacks and suicide bombings.

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