In a fresh bid to forge opposition unity, Pakistan's two most popular leaders Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were expected to meet on Monday to decide whether to boycott the January 8 polls, while electoral authorities were to decide on the validity of the PML-N leader's nomination papers.
The decision will be anxiously awaited as the candidacy of his brother Shahbaz Sharif was rejected yesterday citing pending criminal charges. Shahbaz has decided to challenge the decision in court saying the move was politically motivated despite the party's decision to boycott the polls.
Bhutto said if the elections are boycotted it would strengthen Musharraf as parties backed by him would come into power.
"That's why we are saying we will take part in elections under protest, but we will also eave the door open" for boycott, the Pakistan People's party chief told reporters in Peshawar during her election campaign.
Bhutto claimed she was getting conflicting signals from Sharif and Islamist alliance MMA's leaders on the issue of boycott as they had filed their nomination papers.
Asserting that all "moderate forces and democratic forces should work together", Bhutto, however, kept the field open for a consensus with Sharif on the issue. "I have signed the charter of democracy with Nawaz Sharif and we are committed to it," she said.
Earlier, Bhutto held talks with her party leaders in northwestern Pakistan, the second day of her election campaign that began in the conservative ethnic Pashtun heartland, a support base for the Taliban. They discussed political developments in the troubled North West Frontier Province, party spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said. Bhutto said her party “will give them security, peace and employment, and will bring development to their areas so their problems can be solved.”