ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Ex-premier Benazir Bhutto said Thursday she expects to reach an agreement on a democratic transition in Pakistan once President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government introduces an amnesty dropping corruption cases against her and other politicians.
Bhutto and officials from her Pakistan People's Party have been engaged in on-off power-sharing talks with Musharraf, who is expected to win a presidential election Saturday.
Though a deal is close, she stressed nothing was final, and that her party was still waiting to see the final text of the amnesty.
"There is many a slip between the cup and the lip," she said. "Until we see the national reconciliation bill in print form we would not be able to confirm where we stand. But we are now optimistic that this is going through.
"We expect there will be an understanding towards a transition towards democracy," she said.
An agreement would avert a boycott by Bhutto's party of Saturday's vote by federal and provincial Pakistani lawmakers.
Other opposition parties have already pulled their lawmakers from national and provincial assemblies in protest, hoping to undermine the credibility of the election.
"We will either contest the elections or we will abstain from the voting," she said.
An agreement could also propel Bhutto and Musharraf — both liberal and pro-Western — toward a power-sharing arrangement after parliamentary elections due by January.
Bhutto said her party was "pleased" that Musharraf had committed to giving up his position as army chief — once he is re-elected. "We feel it is a step toward democracy when Gen. Musharraf will take off his uniform."
She also said her demand for Musharraf to give up the presidential power to fire the prime minister — a post she hopes to secure for a third time — could be resolved later.
Bhutto said the two sides had found it difficult to negotiate with each other.
"But both of us realized that the transfer of power should take place in a peaceful way," she said.
"It is much better if we can get the transfer from dictatorship to democracy through peaceful political means and avoiding bloodshed."