RT News

Friday, August 31, 2007

Last-ditch efforts to clinch deal with BB, block Sharifs’ return

* Lt Gen (r) Hamid Javed off to London again, Tariq Aziz still there
* Talks with MMA being considered if dialogue with PPP fails

By Rana Qaisar

ISLAMABAD: Following a deadlock in the Musharraf-Benazir talks and Nawaz Sharif’s decision to land in Islamabad on September 10, the government made a last-ditch effort on Friday by activating two different diplomatic channels to “clinch” a deal with Benazir and “stop” Nawaz from returning to Pakistan.

Sources told Daily Times that contacts were established with the British and Saudi governments after the president consulted and briefed the PML leaders on the “proposals” being discussed with Benazir, and Nawaz’s decision to return. Inside sources said that after Benazir declined to postpone the joint meeting of her party’s central working committee and federal council beyond August 31, it was decided to involve a “common friend” through diplomatic channels to act as guarantor and broker a “deal” between the president and the PPP chairwoman.
The “common friend” is the British government and a meeting between a senior British official and Benazir took place before the latter chaired her party meeting. The CEC meeting is expected to continue late into the night. PPP Information Secretary Sherry Rehman confirmed to Daily Times from London that a meeting had indeed taken place between British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Benazir. “It was a meeting, not a call on,” Rehman insisted, adding that the “forthcoming election(s)” were discussed.

It may be mentioned here that the former British high commissioner to Islamabad, Mark Lyall Grant, was earlier involved in contacts between the Pakistan government and the two former premiers. Grant is presently political director at the British Foreign Office and is said to be in touch with NSC Secretary Tariq Aziz who is still in London and in constant touch with Rehman Malik, who is the interlocutor from Benazir’s side. It is learnt that President Musharraf’s Chief of Staff Lt Gen (r) Hamid Javed will arrive in London today (Saturday) with a “message” for Benazir before the announcement of the decisions to be taken at the PPP meeting. He may be accompanied by ISI DG Lt Gen Ashfaq Kayani, but this could not be confirmed.

However, sources said the government was keeping all its options open to get the president re-elected even if a “deal” with Benazir could not be finalised. A meeting chaired by President Musharraf and attended by Chaudhry Shujaat discussed all “possibilities and options”.

Among the possibilities and options available to the government a dialogue with the MMA, particularly with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was top priority in case Benazir did not show any flexibility on the issues of Article 58(2-b) and the president’s uniform.

"No understanding has been arrived at," she told a news conference in London of her negotiations with Musharraf that would see him quit as army chief and Bhutto return to become prime minister.
"I will be going back to Pakistan very soon, on Sep14"