Emissaries of Musharraf, Sharif to meet?

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS,

Islamabad : Former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif may have said that he would never talk to President Pervez Musharraf, but efforts are now underway for a possible meeting between their emissaries as part of “national reconciliation” by the presidency.

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Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had been ruling out any contact with Musharraf but now after a message from a ‘world leader’, “the two archrivals may go for indirect contact”, a source privy to the developments told IANS.

In October 1999, Sharif’s elected government was sacked by Musharraf, who was then the army chief. And after a year, he sent the entire Sharif family into forced exile to Saudi Arabia.

However, Sharif with the help of Saudi King Abdullah managed to return last year before the national elections in which his party unexpectedly obtained second position and is a coalition partner in the centre with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and other parties.

“Sharif is under pressure from Saudis and another international leader to develop working relationship with Musharraf,” the source said, adding that if he fails to do so he may face isolation and his brother’s government in Punjab province may be in danger.

On the other hand, Musharraf has launched efforts to bring all the major political players, including the PML-N, on board to meet growing national challenges like terrorism and price hike. In the last five months, inflation in Pakistan is reported to be more than 25 percent, making life difficult for the people.

A source said the presidency and PML-N have contacted each other through a third party, but it failed to produce any positive results. “Now Sharif is being asked not only by the national forces but international forces to work with Musharraf for rooting out terrorism and controlling inflation.”

Musharraf earlier this month said his doors are open for Sharif and he is ready to talk to him in the larger national interest. But soon after Musharraf’s statement, Sharif said he was an illegitimate president and that PML-N party would never talk to him.