The jailed president of the opposition Pakistan National Alliance was moved to a hospital today amid signs that beleaguerred Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto has consolidated his position.
The acting head of the Alliance, Pir Sahib Pagaro, said that the opposition is now prepared to negotiate all of its demands, including its previous insistence that Bhutto resign.
The Pir was speaking on behalf of the jailed leaders of the nine party Alliance. The group's president.Maulana Mufti Mahmud, was transfered from a police guesthouse outside his city to a military hospital.
Hospital officials said he was suffering from "a complicated of diabetes."
Bhutto, whose position looked extremely tenuous only a few days ago, bounced back following a speech Thursday night in which he accused the United States of financing an opposition "conspiracy" and an ineffectual opposition demonstration in Rawalpindi yesterday.
The demonstration was planned to be the massive climax to seven weeks of bloody agitation in cities throughout Pakistan. Instead, police arrested thousands of would be demonstrators before they reached the streets of Rawalpindi. Only a relative handful managed to skirmish wish police.
The Pir, who met with Bhutto yesterday, after the buoyant premier toured parts of Rawalpindi in an open jeep, told newsmen that the Alliance's three demands were all "debatable once we get to the negotiating table."
The opposition has been calling for Bhutto's resignation; new national elections to replace those held last month, which the alliance claims were rigged; and new commissioners to oversee the election.
An Alliance official, speaking to reporters at the house where the Pir has been staying here, said the group is now interested in coming to a negotiated settlement quickly. "We're all worn out," he said.
The prospect of negotiations could be blocked, however, if the Alliance loses control of its supporters, hundreds of whom have been embittered by the deaths of family embittered by the deaths of family members at the hands of police and soldiers during demonstrations.
The wife of former Air Marshal ashgar Khan, the most significant of the Alliance's nine leaders, said in an interview this morning that she does not believe that opposition supporters would settle for a compromise.
"I've spoken to the wives, sisters and daughters of those who've been killed and they tell me that we must keep fighting," she said. "They tell me that we must not compromise at any cost and that they will not support any leaders who give in to Mr. Bhutto.
"This means that the movement is no longer in the hands of the leaders. It has become the people's movement."