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Benazir, Sharif demand free and fair polls

The former Prime Ministers have called for free and fair elections in Pakistan through an interim government of national consensus.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 12:49 IST

Ruling out any deal with President Pervez Musharraf, former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have called for free and fair elections in Pakistan through an interim government of national consensus, open to all political parties and leaders.

The two leaders in exile also decided to hold talks here on May 14 to chalk out a strategy for next year's elections and announce the Charter of Democracy and Code of Conduct to be placed before the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy summit scheduled for July 2.

In a joint statement released after their marathon 150- minute meeting here on Monday evening, Bhutto and Sharif said they had agreed to vigorously pursue the course of democracy and reaffirmed their resolve to restore the 1973 Constitution.

Bhutto, who was Pakistan's premier twice, told reporters here that restoration of democracy in Pakistan would also help improve relations with India.

"We are better placed to bring about better relations and legitimacy with India," the Chairperson of Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) said.

She recalled that it was during Sharif's regime that the historic Lahore agreement was signed with then Indian premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee and she herself had reached an accord with Rajiv Gandhi to improve bilateral relations.

Sharif declared that both leaders would shortly be in the country to press for democracy.

"You will see us soon in Pakistan. Musharraf has no authority (to keep us in exile)... It is our Pakistan. Pending that whatever possible from outside will be done. Musharraf is only a dictator; his rule is absolutely unfortunate," he said.

"Earlier we had a meeting in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, and we will meet again on May 14 here," he said.

"No matter what they do, we are not a commodity for sale. I regard him (Musharraf) as an unconstitutional authority. We'll try to play on our wicket and not on their wicket," he said when asked whether Musharraf was trying to 'woo' his party.

Alleging that the National Accountability bureau was trying to pervert the course of justice in Pakistan through politically motivated cases, the two leaders demanded the withdrawal of all such cases.

"General Musharraf is a one-man show. He already had two attempts on his life and he is an endangered species," Bhutto said.

Bhutto said she disagreed with the notion that Musharraf had tried to bring about a political rapprochement.

"They have tried to break political unity and tried to create misunderstanding," she said.

According to the joint statement, the two exiled former Prime Ministers "expressed deep concern on the deteriorating political and worsening economic situation in the country and called for free and fair elections through an interim government of national consensus under an independent and autonomous election commission open to all political parties and political leaders.

"Both the leaders agreed to vigorously pursue the course of democracy and reaffirmed their resolve to restore the 1973 Constitution.

They also rejected the National Accountability bureaus attempts to pervert the course of justice through politically motivated cases to re-engineer the political system in the country. They demanded withdrawal of all politically motivated cases."