Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan and leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has lived in exile for eight years. Now that President Pervez Musharraf's authority is weakened, her chances of returning to power are greater than they have been for some time.
Bhutto: I am not aware of any official confirmation from either side of the meeting, but as far as the contact between General Musharraf and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), we have been discussing the transition back to democracy and the holding of free, fair and impartial elections.
SPIEGEL: You have been living in exile for eight years. You could probably only return home after the charges of corruption leveled against you have been dropped. The regulation prohibiting a third term as prime minister would also have to be eliminated. What did Musharraf say about that?
Bhutto: We discussed a level playing field for all political parties and we also discussed how parliament could be made more effective.
SPIEGEL: Musharraf has been more unpopular than ever since the siege of the Red Mosque. Is this your chance?
Bhutto: I think it is unfortunate that he has been unable to restore law and order in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan or take measures to eradicate terrorism there. Pro-Taliban forces have regrouped and the policy of having ceasefires or peace treaties with them from time to time has simply emboldened them to expand their influence. I want to give my compatriots a clear choice: Either they support extremism or they reject it decisively.
SPIEGEL: That sounds very simple. How can you achieve greater successes than Musharraf, who knows he has the United States by his side and who is therefore mockingly called "Busharraf" by many people?
Bhutto: It will indeed not be easy. But terrorism is the greatest danger -- our country must not be Talibanized. I am confident that my compatriots will defend themselves against this danger.
SPIEGEL: Until now, you had rejected all talks with a president who wears a uniform.
Bhutto: I would like to clarify that there is no change in the PPP's stance that it cannot work with a uniformed president. A uniformed president blurs the distinction between civilian and military rule.
SPIEGEL: You have signed a charter with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, another former government member in exile, which is intended to pave the way for a return to democracy. Sharif considers any contact with Musharraf a breach of this agreement.
Bhutto: It is disputed that the charter of democracy precludes dialogue for the transition to democracy. Our agreement does not prohibit contact with a military dictator if that opens up a path back to normality. Sharif and I have formulated blueprints for the future. We are no longer rivals but rather partners, and we have a common goal. We are the most important players in the historic attempt to restore democracy.
Interview conducted by Padma Rao.
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