LONDON: Former Prime Minster and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) Nawaz Sharif while declaring that he is determined to remove General Pervez Musharraf, has brushed aside fears that he faces jail if he returns to Pakistan. “Musharraf’s threats can’t stop me from responding to my call of duty,” he said in an interview. “He must know the tide has turned against him and that he is fighting a losing battle, British daily The Independent quoted him as saying.
Nawaz has also set up a three-way struggle for leadership of the country that looks likely to reach a conclusion this month. Nawaz Sharif said he was unafraid of the regime’s threats to arrest him on corruption charges if he returns from exile.”Musharraf has already put me in jail before. For 14 months I was kept in solitary confinement. I was kept in a little dungeon in a 16th-century fort and I was treated even worse than a prisoner of war. That is how he treated the country’s democratically elected prime minister.”
Mr Sharif was overthrown by the army in 1999 and later exiled to Saudi Arabia under a deal that was supposed to keep him out of Pakistani politics for at least 10 years. But last week Mr Musharraf’s struggling regime was dealt a severe blow after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the former prime minister could return home. His faction of the Muslim League now leads a coalition that wants to remove the President from office and bring back democracy.
On Thursday, Mr Sharif raised the stakes by announcing he would return to Pakistan on 10 September to challenge the general’s rule, which is already mired in a crisis with the country’s judiciary. The announcement came against a backdrop of frantic talks between General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, another former prime minister-in-exile, who is trying to negotiate her own return by arranging a power-sharing agreement with the regime. Yesterday, Ms Bhutto met leaders of her PPP opposition party in London to decide whether to continue talks with Mr Musharraf, and whether they should set a date for her return, after failing to receive a public commitment from the general that he would relinquish his army role.
Also speaking in London, Mr Sharif attacked Ms Bhutto for negotiating with the general and accused her of reneging on previous commitments not to strike a deal with the military regime. “There can be no deals with dictators because we are struggling for the restoration of undiluted democracy in Pakistan,” he said. “But [Bhutto] decided on another course and has entered into negotiations with Musharraf. The democratic forces in the country must not be trying to rescue the sinking ship of dictatorship. This is not the time to shake hands with dictatorship.”-SANA