Ex-Pakistani leader challenges Musharraf

Immediately after Pakistan's highest court ruled he could return, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he would go home soon to lead his party's campaign to oust the general who overthrew and exiled him eight years ago.

Ex-Pakistani leader challenges Musharraf
Immediately after Pakistan's highest court ruled he could return, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he would go home soon to lead his party's campaign to oust the general who overthrew and exiled him eight years ago.


Speaking to The Associated Press in his London office on Thursday, Sharif, who once dominated Pakistani politics, confirmed he planned to run for a third term as prime minister.

The ruling by Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday and Sharif's promise to return and run for office further complicate life for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who overthrew Sharif in a bloodless 1999 coup.

Musharraf's recent failed attempt to fire the Supreme Court's chief justice triggered widespread pro-democracy rallies. He also faces U.S. pressure to crack down on Islamic extremists in Pakistan's volatile northwest region near the Afghan border, where attacks on soldiers have increased and the security situation has deteriorated.

"If the people of Pakistan elect me to serve the country, I'll be honored to do that," he said.

On Friday, Sadique al-Farooq, a senior leader of Sharif's party said "there is no chance for any reconciliation" with Musharraf. "It is out of question," he told the AP. "Democracy and dictatorship cannot go together."

Al-Farooq said their party will meet in the capital, Islamabad, on Saturday to consider dates for Sharif's return.

Sharif told the AP he had a cordial relationship with the United States while he was in office, but said Washington must reconsider its relationship with Pakistan and not give its support just to Musharraf if it wants to quell militancy.

"In any democracy you can find such menaces, but if a democracy fights terrorism, ultimately it will win the battle," he said. "But if one individual is fighting the battle (he) cannot win."

While in power, Sharif supported the United States in the 1991 Gulf War, despite fierce criticism from religious parties in his first coalition government.

But he never enjoyed the ties in Washington and London of the urbane, Western-educated Bhutto, and drew international opprobrium when he ordered Pakistan's first nuclear tests during his second term in 1998.

Secular but pragmatic, Sharif has been more willing that Bhutto to line up with the religious parties now openly hostile to the United States and sympathetic to Taliban fighting in neighboring Afghanistan.

Sharif — with a full head of dark hair at 57 years old — appeared more vigorous during his interview than when he was forced from his homeland into exile in Saudi Arabia and London, when he looked frail, gray and nearly bald.

The charismatic conservative secularist said he would return to Pakistan soon.

He was arrested when the army seized power a year later and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment on hijacking and terrorism charges. He was released after signing a pledge not to return to Pakistan for at least 10 years.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled Sharif has "an inalienable right to enter and remain in the country," said Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry — the judge Musharraf tried to fire.

At a London news conference broadcast live on Pakistani private television channels, Sharif praised the court ruling as "a victory for democracy and a defeat for dictatorship."


AFP
Last Mod: 24 Ağustos 2007, 18:00
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