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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 22:42 GMT 23:42 UK
Bhutto 'will return to Pakistan'
Pakistani ex-PM Benazir Bhutto
Ms Bhutto is due to arrive in Pakistan on 18 October
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has confirmed that she will end more than eight years of self-imposed exile on Thursday.

President Musharraf had asked her to delay the return until the Supreme Court decides on whether he is eligible to be president for another term.

The two leaders have been in power-sharing talks.

Gen Musharraf has become increasingly unpopular and is also facing a growing threat from militants.

Pro-Taleban fighters have vowed to assassinate him and Ms Bhutto.

She left the country to escape court cases involving corruption allegations, which she denies.

'Love democracy'

Gen Musharraf easily won a presidential vote on 6 October after opposition deputies in the national and provincial assemblies - which choose the president - either boycotted or abstained from the vote.

"She is the mediocre daughter of a great leader."

However, the Supreme Court said that he could not be officially declared the winner until it had finished ruling on objections to his candidacy.

The principal objection was that Gen Musharraf was not entitled to stand as president while still being head of the military.

That led Gen Musharraf to ask Ms Bhutto to delay her return until the uncertainty over the vote had been clarified.

But Ms Bhutto told journalists in Dubai on Wednesday that she would go ahead with her return on Thursday.

KEY DATES
06 Oct: Presidential polls held
17 Oct: Supreme Court resumes hearing challenges to Musharraf candidacy
18 Oct: Date ex-PM Benazir Bhutto has set for her homecoming
15 Nov: Parliamentary term ends and general election must be held by mid-January

"At this time tomorrow, we'll be on board the plane to Karachi, which is a day that I and all the people in Pakistan who love democracy and believe in fundamental human rights, have been waiting for," she said.

She is planning a high-profile return, hoping that hundreds of thousands of supporters will turn out in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city.

Washington has backed a power-sharing deal with Gen Musharraf which would see Ms Bhutto becoming prime minister.

The United States has become increasingly concerned over the military's inability to defeat Islamist extremists and Gen Musharraf's rising unpopularity.

Ms Bhutto's negotiators have three main demands:

  • The dropping of corruption charges against her
  • The repeal of a law banning anyone from being prime minister three times, which affects both her and another ex-PM, Nawaz Sharif
  • The president loses the right to dissolve parliament.

Gen Musharraf has so far met the first of those demands, signing an ordinance on 5 October that grants her an amnesty from the corruption charges.

However, the Supreme Court says it needs to decide if that ordinance is legal.

If it rules against it, then Ms Bhutto could face arrest and prosecution on corruption charges dating back several years.

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Benazir Bhutto's supporters start their celebrations early



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