Sharif, Bhutto file nomination papers

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS

Islamabad : Two former Pakistan prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, Monday filed nomination papers for the Jan 8 polls, but Sharif is likely to be barred from contesting the much-awaited general elections.

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Sharif, who came back to country after seven years of exile in Saudi Arabia, filed his nomination from the constituency of Lahore, while Bhutto filed it from Larkana, her hometown in Sindh province.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader had also filed her nomination papers in Karachi for reserved seats for women in the National Assembly.

Monday was the last day for submitting nomination papers for the national and provincial assembly elections scheduled for Jan 8.

Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum told reporters that Sharif had been convicted in a case of hijacking and according to law a convicted person cannot stand in elections. “Nawaz Sharif will be barred from contesting the polls,” he said.

Sharif said the government would do anything to keep him away from the elections. “We are strongly thinking of boycotting the elections, but only if all opposition parties do so,” Sharif told media persons in Lahore after filing his nominations.

Sharif’s wife Begum Kulsoom and younger brother Shahbaz also filed nomination papers in Lahore. But he said that his party will withdraw the candidates if opposition decides to boycott the polls.

He also said he would not become prime minister as long as Musharraf remained president and alleged the president had visited Saudi Arabia to block his homecoming.

Addressing a crowded and first press conference here Monday at his residence, Sharif said he had returned to Pakistan through the efforts of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

“Even if I sweep the elections I will never become prime minister with Musharraf holding the presidency,” Sharif said.

He said that it was not only difficult but impossible to work with Musharraf. The former prime minister said that he would discuss with other politicians about providing “a safe passage” to Musharraf to quit as president and army chief.

“President Musharraf visited Saudi Arabia to block my home coming. He urged the Saudi government to block my return to country.

“But I am grateful to the Saudi rulers and King Abdullah that they stressed on my return to country as they understand that Nawaz Sharif’s role in the country’s politics is very vital and his role has been very positive in the past. I have returned to the country with the efforts of King Abdullah. I have come back to save the country. I have not returned under any deal nor has my homecoming been made possible under US pressure,” Sharif stressed.

He said that his party was meeting Tuesday in Lahore to discuss the final plan for the forthcoming elections before attending the 32-party All Parties Democratic Movement which represents all major parties except Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party.

On Bhutto, Sharif said he had earlier spoken to her from Jeddah. “Benazir Bhutto also wants end to dictatorship, a free media and restoration of judiciary on pre-Nov 3 position,” he said.

The PPP has announced its final list of contestants but Bhutto has obviously been hesitating about her next move, allowing party members to file for nomination while leaving the option of a boycott open.

Bhutto returned from eight years in exile on Oct 18 and has since been touring major cities across the country to gather support.