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Bhutto, Sharif threaten poll boycott

Former PMs have said their parties could boycott the January 8 elections if their demands to ensure free and fair polls were not conceded by the Govt, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Dec 04, 2007 22:39 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

Former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have said their parties could boycott the January 8 elections if their demands to ensure free and fair polls were not conceded by the government.

For its part, the government has said that some of the demands that the parties are making, like the reinstatement of judges sacked following declaration of emergency in the country, were “not negotiable”.

Political analysts, however, feel that it is the political parties and not the Musharraf government which is on a weak footing since Musharraf has secured his place as president and the ruling coalition is set to give the opposition parties a tough time in the polls.

“What is more of a question is how united the opposition parties are,” commented analyst Javed Iqbal. Many say that while Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif may seem to be presenting a united front at present, the chances of a political alliance working against the Musharraf government in the long term are dim.

Sharif has accepted that the opposition alliance needed to sort out its differences before it could present a united front before the government. “I am aware of the problems but we are working in a manner that we want to take all political forces along and this will only happen through talks and consensus,” he said on Tuesday.

In a major development, the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy and the All Pakistan Democratic Movement on Monday night decided to give the government a “charter of demands” to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the country.

“We have decided to present the charter of demands to the government. If the government accepts our demands, all opposition parties will participate in the elections, otherwise they will resort to boycott,” Sharif and Bhutto said after a three-and-a-half hour-long meeting.

At the press conference, Sharif announced that an eight-member committee would be constituted. “The committee has been tasked to start work from Tuesday morning and complete the charter of demands within two to three days so that it can be presented before the government,” he revealed.

Benazir Bhutto said the ARD and the APDM discussed many points and agreed that the elections could not be free, fair and transparent in the present circumstances.

Replying to a question, Benazir said they did not want postponement of the January 8 polls. She said the charter of demands was being presented to the government to ensure that free, fair and transparent elections are held.

Sharif told the press that the opposition did not want to boycott the elections but if their charter was not accepted by the government, they would be forced to stay away from the polls. He said: “The rejection of my nomination papers exposed the ‘fairness’ of the elections.”