Sharif urges Bhutto to boycott vote

It is surprising that Musharraf let Sharif back into Pakistan. I wonder if he was pressured to do this by the US. I am not sure the US would be happy if Sharif actually won. The US would prefer Bhutto. Perhaps there will still be some understanding between Bhutto and Musharraf. Notice that Sharif is the one calling so strongly for re-instatement of the chief justice and others. He is right that the court is now stacked with Musharraf supporters. As with other leaders Sharif is saddled with corruption charges. Before he can run they must be dropped or ignored so he can probably run only if Musharraf thinks it is a good idea! Sharif is wise enough not to be too principled. If Bhutto decides to run he will also in spite of his denouncing of the election. These chaps sound very much like Western politicians.

Sharif urges Bhutto to boycott vote

27 November 2007

LAHORE, Islamabad - Pakistani ex-premier Nawaz Sharif called on Tuesday on rival opposition leader Benazir Bhutto to join his party in boycotting upcoming general elections.

Sharif, who returned home from exile Sunday, said he had been in telephone contact with Bhutto three or four times in the last few days as they consider their strategy against President Pervez Musharraf.

A Bhutto party aide earlier said the two had not spoken.

‘I shall try to convince Benazir Bhutto to boycott the polls,’ Sharif told reporters in his home city of Lahore, in eastern Pakistan, adding that he had already asked her to take a ‘firm stance’ against the vote.

He said Musharraf wanted to rig the January 8 polls in order to secure a sufficient majority in parliament that would indemnify him over his imposition of emergency rule and his sacking of many of the nation’s top judges.

Bhutto and Sharif, both two-time former premiers and now Pakistan’s main opposition leaders, are jockeying for position as they seek to lead a united front against Musharraf.

Sharif will preside a meeting Thursday of a broad coalition of opposition groups to decide whether they should boycott the polls, senior party leader Raja Zafarul Haq said.

Bhutto’s party, however—the largest opposition party in Pakistan—is not part of the alliance and is widely expected to take part in the vote.

Her spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Bhutto sent flowers to Sharif with a message welcoming him home Sunday.

But he said there had been no telephone contact, and that while Bhutto was ready to meet Sharif, nothing had been planned.

‘If they meet they will discuss how to make the elections free and fair or whether they should boycott the vote,’ Babar told AFP.

However a formal electoral alliance is out of the question, and observers believe neither will want to cede electoral advantage to the other.

Sharif has said he would be ready to boycott the elections if there is a consensus to do so—code for saying that if Bhutto takes part, so will he.

He is a religious conservative while Bhutto, a secular leader, is seen by the United States—anxious to preserve Pakistan’s role in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taleban—as pro-Western.


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