Sharif rules out leading govt under Musharraf

Lahore, November 26:

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, fresh from a triumphant return from exile, said today

he would not lead a government under Pakistan’s embattled military president.

“I am not (a) candidate for prime ministership under Pervez Musharraf,” Sharif told reporters at his home, shortly before he was due to register as a candidate in critical January elections. Sharif’s surprise return to Pakistan from exile poses a major threat to Musharraf, the man who ousted him in a 1999 coup and became a key US ally against international terrorism.

Sharif and other opposition leaders are threatening to boycott the January 8 parliamentary elections — a step that would wreck Musharraf’s plans for a controlled return to democracy.

But even if they take part in the vote, Sharif’s harsh rhetoric suggests Musharraf faces a bumpy ride as he tries to prolong his eight-year rule. Sharif insisted Musharraf would have to reinstate Supreme Court judges purged under the emergency and obtain their approval before he would be “acceptable” to his party.

“We don’t want to boycott elections, but if you push someone to the wall ... what options are left?” Sharif said at his country estate outside Lahore. “We demand restoration of all judges, lifting of curbs on media, lifting of emergency before elections,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif filed his nomination papers today in Lahore for general elections in January, a day after he returned from exile, an AFP reporter saw.