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Bhutto, Sharif file nomination papers for polls

A day after his triumphant return from exile, Nawaz Sharif joins Benazir Bhutto in the Pak electoral battlefield.

world Updated: Nov 26, 2007 19:46 IST

A day after his triumphant return from exile, Nawaz Sharif on Monday filed his nomination papers in Lahore for the January polls, joining another political heavyweight Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan's electoral battlefield, but kept alive the threat of a poll boycott.

Accusing Musharraf, who had deposed him in a bloodless coup in 1999, of bringing Pakistan to "the verge of disaster", the 57-year-old leader ruled out serving as prime minister under the military ruler.

"We don't want to boycott elections, but if you push someone to the wall ... What options are left?," Sharif, told reporters at his estate in his hometown. He added that the option of boycotting the January 8 general election remained open for his Pakistan Muslim League-(N) party if emergency was not lifted.

He demanded the withdrawal of the emergency imposed by Musharraf on November 3 and said he had no confidence in the Election Commission and the caretaker government, propped up by Musharraf after the National Assembly completed its tenure on November 15.

"I won't be prime minister under Musharraf," the two-time prime minister said even as a top government lawyer said Sharif could be barred from standing in the polls altogether.

"As the election law stands today, it is highly doubtful that Nawaz Sharif can contest elections," Attorney General Malik Qayyum told Dawn News channel.

Surrounded by slogan-shouting supporters who showered rose petals on him, Sharif entered the court in Punjab capital where he signed his papers to contest the polls on the last day of filing nominations.

His brother Shahbaz, who returned with him yesterday, also filed his nomination papers. Sharif said he was holding talks with Pakistan People's Party chief Benazir Bhutto on forging a united front to oppose the emergency but ruled out an alliance with her party for the polls.

Bhutto, who filed her nominations papers from a seat reserved for woman in Karachi yesterday, submitted papers from two more seats in her hometown Larkana in Sindh.

Sharif said a meeting of the opposition alliance All Parties Democratic Movement will be held on November 29 and before that other parties will be convinced for the boycott of the elections.

Sharif also demanded the reinstatement of the Supreme Court judges who were sacked when they refused to endorse Musharraf's emergency and lifting of curbs on the media.

He said the US should pressure the military ruler to reinstate them. He opposed terrorism and said he would work to fight the menace to prevent Pakistan from becoming "another Iraq". "Musharraf has brought Pakistan to the verge of disaster," he had told a huge crowd of supporters who gathered at the Data Darbar shrine yesterday.

"When the constitution, fundamental rights are suspended, when people live difficult lives, when judges who make decisions according to the Constitution are ousted, will elections in such a situation not be a fraud?" he said from atop a truck carrying him from airport on his return for a seven-year exile.

"Should not such elections be boycotted?" Sharif said amid chants of "boycott, boycott" by supporters.