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Zardari, Sharif meet; ends months of acrimony

world Updated: Jul 17, 2009 22:26 IST

Ending eight months of acrimony, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif met in Lahore on Friday agreeing to adopt a holistic approach to address militancy, which they said posed the "most serious threat" to the country's security.

The two met at Sharif's palatial farm on the outskirts of this eastern city for talks, hours after the Supreme Court cleared Sharif of involvement in the hijacking of former President Pervez Musharraf's plane before the military coup of 1999, paving way for his comeback into electoral politics.

A joint statement issued after the meeting, that lasted four hours, said the ruling Pakistan People's Party and the PML-N agreed that "militancy posed the most serious threat to national security.

Besides adopting a holistic approach to address the threat, the two parties agreed that "militants should not be allowed to impose their agenda on the people through guns and bullets," the statement said.

An insider told PTI that Sharif's body language during the meeting was not "conducive" as he wanted to express his "displeasure" over promises that were not fulfilled by Zardari.

"The President, however, did not mind that. Zardari has been appreciated by all political parties for his gesture of coming to see Sharif," the insider said.

The two sides were of the view that the situation in Balochistan needed to be addressed urgently and seriously.

"Political dialogue and development of the province should be pressed into service to remove the sense of alienation of the people of the province," the statement said.

They were of the view that Parliament should play a more proactive role in visibly meeting the aspiration of the people of the province.

Relations between the PPP and PML-N nose-dived last year after Sharif accused Zardari of reneging on several promises, including a pledge to amend the constitution to repeal the President's sweeping powers to dissolve parliament.

In March, Sharif threw his weight behind protests by the lawyers' community to restore judges sacked by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf during the 2007 emergency. The move forced the government to restore the deposed judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Unlike their previous meetings, both leaders did not brief the media after their talks. Zardari reached Sharif's farmhouse in a helicopter shortly after the Supreme Court set aside the PML-N chief's conviction in a case related to the alleged hijacking of an aircraft carrying Musharraf in 1999.

The judgement cleared the way for Sharif's return to electoral politics.

Zardari congratulated Sharif for his acquittal and invited him to visit the presidency. The insider said Sharif accepted the invitation.