Sharif, Benazir rules out joining Pak polls
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Sharif, Benazir rules out joining Pak polls

Expressing their resolve to return to Pakistan, former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto on Sunday ruled out participating in general elections.

india Updated: May 15, 2006 01:28 IST

Expressing their resolve to return to Pakistan, former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto on Sunday ruled out participating in general elections in their country next year under President Pervez Musharraf and demanded the exercise be held under a neutral caretaker government.

"He (Musharraf) does not have the ability to contest the elections. So, if the elections have to be fair, they have to be under a neutral caretaker setup," Sharif told reporters as deliberations were on to sign the Charter for Democracy in Pakistan.

"Musharraf cannot stop us from returning to our country. It is our right. We are the citizens of Pakistan. Musharraf is nobody to keep us out of the country forcibly. Now that elections are going to be held, Musharraf will have to create a level-playing field for everybody. There cannot be one field for one party and another for the other", he said.

"Therefore, we will return and we will not accept elections under Musharraf because Musharraf will certainly rig the polls."

Answering a question, Bhutto said "we both want to return for the elections of 2007 and put the military dictatorship to test whether it really believes in holding free, fair and impartial elections."

"Mia Sahib (Sharif) and I were both banned from returning to Pakistan. He (Musharraf) prevented us from returning through legal manipulation but he did not succeed in resolving the political problem", she said.

She claimed both of them continued to command support of the people of Pakistan.

"Our parties continue to believe in our leadership. So, there is a political impasse in Pakistan. The political impasse cannot be solved through legal manipulation.

"In fact, I am concerned that if these legal manipulations continue to hinder the political process, then the institutions in Pakistan will continue to deteriorate leading to what some of the western observers call towards a failed state", Bhutto said.

Asked why she did not return to Islamabad earlier, Bhutto said "I did not return earlier because I felt my freedom of movement will be curtailed. My freedom of speech will be constrained and I would not be able to struggle for restoration of democratic order.

"But now I have a deadline. A deadline has been made public by my party to go to the elections of 2007 irrespective of whether Gen Musharraf permits me to contest or not. I am determined to return to Pakistan like Mia Sahib. It is not just a decision of the leader but two Parliamentary groups.

"In Parliament, in the provincial assembly and in the local body, vast majority of the people of Pakistan are in favour of it. We want a democracy and we don't want to hear Pakistan as an exception to democracy when we hear the world talking of democracy in Afghanistan," she said.

First Published: May 15, 2006 01:28 IST