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Sharif tells people defining moment for Pakistan near

A defiant PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif today told his supporters to defy restrictions imposed by the government and “join hands to change the country’s destiny”. Sharif told a gathering of hundreds of his supporters that “these are defining moments in Pakistan’s history...and we have to make a final decision.”

world Updated: Mar 11, 2009 21:00 IST

A defiant PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday told his supporters to defy restrictions imposed by the government and “join hands to change the country’s destiny”.

Hours after authorities detained hundreds of opposition party activists and lawyers and banned protests and rallies in Punjab and Sindh provinces, Sharif told a gathering of hundreds of his supporters that “these are defining moments in Pakistan’s history...and we have to make a final decision.”

Accusing President Asif Ali Zardari of failing to deliver on promises aimed at shutting the door to dictatorship, the former prime minister said, “we cannot compromise when all institutions are being ruined and the system is on the verge of collapse.”

“We want justice for Pakistan...The long march has been called to bring in a change in the system and the country,” he told a rally at Abbottabad in NWFP.

Sharif, who has been threatened with slapping of sedation charges, alleged that Pakistan’s sovereignty had been compromised and tensions with India had increased under the PPP-led government.

He said the PML-N had reluctantly joined hands with the PPP after last year’s election but the “dreams” of a change had been shattered.

The PML-N had even swallowed the bitter pill of its leaders having to be sworn in as ministers by former President Pervez Musharraf but Zardari had reneged on all his promises, Sharif said.

Asking people to defy prohibitory orders and join a “long march” to be launched tomorrow by the lawyers’ movement, the PML-N chief said this was “to save Pakistan and its institutions”.

“The responsibility rests on your shoulders. I am ready to march alongside you,” he told the rally. The protest march tomorrow is to press for reinstating judges deposed during the 2007 emergency, setting the stage for a major confrontation with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.

“Pakistan is in danger and there are risks all around,” Sharif said, claiming the PPP-led government had failed to address poverty, unemployment, ending energy crisis and security situation in the tribal areas and Swat valley.

Referring to the Supreme Court’s verdict barring him and his brother, former Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, from contesting polls and holding elected office, Sharif said President Asif Ali Zardari “has no time for anything but breaking up governments and dismissing them”.

The Sharif brothers have been on the warpath since Zardari imposed Governor’s Rule in the politically crucial Punjab province after the Supreme Court’s verdict against them. The PML-N has thrown its weight behind the “long march” to be launched by the lawyers’ movement on Thursday.