Sharif says Benazir resists his call for poll boycott | world | Hindustan Times
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Sharif says Benazir resists his call for poll boycott

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday that rival opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was resisting his call for a boycott of Pakistan's crucial parliamentary elections.

world Updated: Nov 22, 2007 02:32 IST

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday that rival opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was resisting his call for a boycott of Pakistan's crucial parliamentary elections.

In an interview with The Associated Press from exile in Saudi Arabia, Sharif also forecast that Saudi authorities would approve his plan to return to Pakistan.

"They feel very strongly that I have a duty to perform in Pakistan and a role to play," Sharif said by telephone from the Red Sea town of Jiddah.

However, he said he did not know whether Saudi leaders had actually communicated that to Musharraf when he held talks with them in Riyadh yesterday, or if Musharraf had agreed.

Sharif's second spell as Pakistan's prime minister was ended when Musharraf toppled him in a 1999 coup. Sharif agreed to go into exile a year later in return for his release from jail.

Musharraf quickly deported Sharif back to Saudi Arabia when he tried to return to Pakistan in September and the embittered former leader has been one of the general's most implacable critics.

Sharif's party has been calling for opposition parties to unite to force Musharraf to rescind a state of emergency declared on November 3, under which thousands of Sharif's party workers have been detained.

Sharif said that was not enough to prepare for January 8 parliamentary elections, which he claimed would be rigged to favor pro-Musharraf parties and would be unfair if he was excluded.

But he said he had failed in a telephone conversation with Bhutto on Wednesday to convince her to boycott the poll - a drastic step that would make it very hard for Musharraf, a key US counterterrorism ally, to stay in control.