Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister President Musharraf overthrew in 1999, said Pakistan's democratic forces should unite to end dictatorship following a parliamentary election which the pro-Musharraf party lost.
"I appreciate the spirit of the people, they have given a verdict," said Sharif, whose own party ran a close second to the Pakistan People's Party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in the polls on Monday.
"It was not being understood by Mr Musharraf. He had closed his eyes. He would say when people would want, I will go. Today the people have said what they want," he told a news conference in Lahore.
Bhutto's PPP emerged the largest party in the 342 seat National Assembly but does not have a majority and will need to seek coalition partners. Results from some seats were still awaited by late afternoon on Tuesday, but the trends were clear.
Sharif said he planned to meet Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari, who took over the helm of the PPP, on Thursday.
"I am looking forward to working with all democratic forces," he said.
"I invite all to sit together and free Pakistan of dictatorship, sit together to say good-bye to dictatorship forever." Sharif stuck by his position that judges whom Musharraf fired before they could annul his re-election by the last parliament in October should be reinstated to rule on whether Musharraf can keep the presidency.
All actions taken by Musharraf when he imposed emergency rule for six weeks on Nov 3 should be rolled back, Sharif said. He returned from exile in Saudia Arabia late November after Musharraf bowed to pressure from Saudi King Abdullah.
His refusal to have any truck with Musharraf clearly won favour among voters, though the PPP rode a sympathy wave to victory in the polls.
(Reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Augustine Anthony; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Jerry Norton)