Sharif’s “kept in dark” over Kargil claims “an absolute lie”: Musharraf

Lahore, June 27 (ANI): Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf has rejected former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s claims that he was kept in the dark regarding the Kargil issue.

In an interview to a private television channel, Musharraf claimed that he had shared all details with Sharif regarding the Kargil conflict.

Terming Sharif’s statement as “an absolute lie”, Musharraf said he gave Sharif a detailed presentation on the Kargil situation just two days before the former left for the US.

He said that Sharif repeatedly enquired about whether the troops could be withdrawn from Kargil, to which he claimed to have replied that it had to be decided by the country’s leadership.

“I said I have informed you about the military situation but the withdrawal of forces is a political decision which has to be taken by the political leadership,” The Daily Times quoted Musharraf, as saying.

The former military general also claimed that he came near to resolving the Kashmir dispute with India during the infamous Agra summit in 2001.

Musharraf said that he and the then India Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had even agreed to draft a joint declaration regarding the Kashmir issue, but blamed New Delhi for ditching Islamabad at the last moment.

“The Indian leadership changed their mind at the last minute and did not support the joint declaration, saying that the cabinet had not approved it,” said Musharraf.

Musharraf said he tried his best to resolve the issue which is pending for years, and in that context even held talks with all the stakeholders such as All-Parties Hurriyat Conference and various leaders of the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

He, however, said the meetings did not yield substantial results, as the leaders ‘failed to guide him in the right direction’.

Musharraf also rejected the notion that the country’s Army did not want a resolution on the Kashmir issue.

He said all such reports were primarily aired to malign the image of the security forces, and a part of a “vicious propaganda” against the country. (ANI)

Musharraf says he got ever so close to resolving Kashmir during Agra summit

Lahore, June 27 (ANI): Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf has claimed that he came near to resolving the Kashmir dispute during the infamous Agra summit in 2001.

In an interview to a private television channel, Musharraf said that he and the then India Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had even agreed to draft a joint declaration regarding the Kashmir issue, but blamed New Delhi for ditching Islamabad at the last moment.

“The Indian leadership changed their mind at the last minute and did not support the joint declaration, saying that the cabinet had not approved it,” The Daily Times quoted Musharraf, as saying.

Musharraf said he tried his best to resolve the issue which is pending for years, and in that context even held talks with all the stakeholders such as All-Parties Hurriyat Conference and various leaders of the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

He, however, said the meetings did not yield substantial results, as the leaders ‘failed to guide him in the right direction’.

Musharraf also rejected the notion that the country’s Army did not want a resolution on the Kashmir issue.

He said all such reports were primarily aired to malign the image of the security forces, and a part of a “vicious propaganda” against the country.

Musharraf also rebuffed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s claims that he was kept in the dark regarding the Kargil issue.

Terming Sharif’s statement as “an absolute lie”, Musharraf said he gave Sharif a detailed presentation on the Kargil situation just two days before the former left for the US.

He said that Sharif repeatedly enquired about whether the troops could be withdrawn from Kargil, to which he claimed to have replied that it had to be decided by the country’s leadership.

“I said I have informed you about the military situation but the withdrawal of forces is a political decision which has to be taken by the political leadership,” said Musharraf. (ANI)

LHC acquits Sharif in helicopter “misappropriation” case

Rawalpindi, June 26 (ANI): The Lahore High Court (LHC) has acquitted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the helicopter “misappropriation” case.

A two-member division bench of the LHC declared the lower court’s verdict as null and void, thus dismissing the misappropriation case against Sharif, The News reports.

After hearing the arguments of the special prosecutor of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), General Abdul Baseer Qureshi, the court gave its verdict in favour of Sharif, and dismissed the accountability court’s earlier verdict that sentenced him to 14 years of imprisonment and along with a fine of 20 million rupees.

Earlier, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had requested the LHC to dismiss Sharif’s petition against punishment in the helicopter case.

The NAB sighted that Sharif had filed the petition much after the date set by the court.

Senior NAB Prosecutor Abdul Baseer Qureshi told a Division Bench that Sharif, after his conviction, had deliberately avoided approaching court for an appeal within the stipulated time, and preferred going abroad to file his plea.

“It is a clear evidence of Nawaz Sharif’s disinterest in challenging the verdict. Therefore, the court should dismiss his belated plea for the condoning of time limit for filing appeal in the case,” Qureshi said.

Qureshi also denied that the copies of the verdict had reached Sharif late due to which he couldn’t file his petition.

Sharif has been accused of tax evasion and fraudulently purchasing a helicopter, which he used for election campaigning in the mid-1990s.

A special anti-terrorism court had adjudged him guilty of utilizing his post for his own benefit, and disqualified him from holding public office for 21 years. (ANI)

Sharif’s petition in choppy waters in “illegal” chopper case

Rawalpindi, June 25 (ANI): Problems for the former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are far from over, as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has now requested the Lahore High Court (LHC) to dismiss Sharif’s petition against punishment in the helicopter case.

The NAB has sighted that Sharif had filed the petition much after the date set by the court.

Senior NAB Prosecutor Abdul Baseer Qureshi told a Division Bench that Sharif, after his conviction, had deliberately avoided approaching court for an appeal within the stipulated time, and preferred going abroad to file his plea.

“It is a clear evidence of Nawaz Sharif’s disinterest in challenging the verdict. Therefore, the court should dismiss his belated plea for the condoning of time limit for filing appeal in the case,” Qureshi said.

Qureshi also denied that the copies of the verdict had reached Sharif late due to which he couldn’t file his petition.

“All the record was supplied to former prime minister’s counsel on April 10,” The Daily Times quoted Qureshi, as saying.

Sharif has been accused of tax evasion and fraudulently purchasing a helicopter, which he used for election campaigning in the mid-1990s.

A special anti-terrorism court had adjudged him guilty of utilizing his post for his own benefit, and disqualified him from holding public office for 21 years. (ANI)

Pak has world class security measures in place for its nukes: Sharif

Lahore, May 29 (ANI): Dismissing global fears about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the Taliban’s hand’s, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the nuclear command and control system is in safe custody.

Asserting that the country’s nukes are far more secure than that of any other country in the world,Sharif told participants at a Yaum-e-Takbeer function, that successive dictatorial regimes were to blame for the present chaos in the country.

“Dictatorial regimes have ruined the socio-economic progress of the country despite the fact that Pakistan was resource-rich and a nation of hard working people,” The Daily Times quoted Sharif, as saying.

Pakistan had witnessed unprecedented growth during civilian rule, and democracy is still in its infancy, he added.

He also criticized the PPP led government for aping the dictatorial policies of former President General Pervez Musharraf.

Demanding legal action Musharraf for his victimisation of judges, he said Musharraf had committed many illegal acts against the Constitution.

Commenting on the US drone strikes being carried out in the tribal regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Sharif said these were against the country’s sovereignty, and therefore, a consensus policy was needed to halt it. (ANI)

Pakistani court lifts ban on former prime minister Sharif

Islamabad – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted a ban on opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from contesting elections.

Justice Tasadaq Hussain, the head of five-member bench of the apex court, while reading out a short order said that the previous rulings disqualifying Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from elections are “set aside.”

A February 25 verdict by the Supreme Court barring the two brothers from contesting parliamentary elections and holding public office sparked protests in Punjab, the country’s most populace province and a stronghold of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

“Justice was bound to happen … however, instead of being triumphant we are grateful to God,” Nawaz Sharif told reporters at his residence in Lahore, the capital of Punjab. (dpa)

Pak SC declares Sharif brothers eligible to contest elections

Islamabad, May 26 (ANI): Revoking the Lahore High Court’s verdict to disqualify former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from contesting elections, the Pakistan Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday declared the Sharif brothers eligible for fighting elections.

The five-member SC bench headed by Justice Tassadaq Hussain Jilani, while hearing the review petitions filed by the Sharifs’ against their disqualification on the conviction in plane hijacking case and default case respectively ordered to lift the ban from them.

Earlier, the apex court had upheld the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) verdict in February after the two consistently refused to appear before the before the PCO judges and SC three-member bench, during hearing of the petitions.

Later, Shahbaz Sharif was removed from the post of Punjab chief minister and governors’ rule was imposed in the province.

Nawaz Sharif, had then called on a nation wide protest march against the verdict and to restore the judiciary including reinstating the deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

On March 16, following the restoration of the deposed judges, Sharif brothers had filed review petitions in the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leaders have hailed the Supreme Court’s verdict.

The PML-N Secretary Information, Ahsan Iqbal said the Supreme Court’s verdict would lead to strengthening the democracy.

Iqbal blamed former President Pervez Musharraf for hatching a conspiracy against the Sharif brothers.

Another PML-N leader, Javed Hashmi termed the SC’s verdict as a victory of justice and truth.

“It is a day of jubilation for the entire nation, and the decision will put the country on the path of progress and prosperity.The judiciary has foiled the conspiracies hatched against the people,” The News quoted Hashmi, as saying. (ANI)

Musharraf denies pressing Sharif to seek US help during Kargil war

Lahore, May 15 (ANI): Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf has denied reports that he had asked the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif to seek US help during the Kargil war in 1999.

In an interview to a private television channel, Musharraf said he had never asked Sharif to talk to the then US President Bill Clinton to ‘save the army’ during the Kargil war.

Commenting on the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Musharraf gave the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) a clean chit, saying it has not played any role in the carnage.

Musharraf said that many Pakistanis believe that India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was behind the attack.

He also rejected the notion that Pakistan could fall into the hands of the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

“Majority of Pakistanis are moderate and the extremists could neither overthrow the government nor win polls,”The Daily Times quoted Musharraf, as saying.

Defending his decision to sack Nawaz Sharif and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, he said his decisions were not unconstitutional, and that the Supreme Court had also validated it.

“It is up to them if they want to take any unconstitutional step against me,” Musharraf added. (ANI)

Pakistan’s leadership on ‘vacation’ amid NWFP crisis

Lahore, May 12 (ANI): While Pakistan is facing one of its worst crises in history, top political leaders of the country are planning on a ‘vacation’ abroad.

President Asif Ali Zardari is in the United States, and has extended his stay abroad.

It is now learnt that Zardari would also be visiting Britain and France before returning home.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in Dubai.

He is scheduled to participate in a marriage ceremony and is the guest of the royal family there, The Nation reports.

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer too is in Dubai on a private visit.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is in the country, but his presence is barely being felt during the entire crisis. (ANI)

Sharif beats Zardari 75 percent to 19 in Pak popularity stakes

New York, May 12 (ANI): Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari may have ‘impressed’ the United States by announcing an all out war against the Taliban and other extremists in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), but he does not seem to have much support back home, as only 19 percent of Pakistanis approve of his move.

According to an opinion poll released by the Washington based International Republican Institute, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has emerged stronger than Zardari, in the current volatile situation, as 75 percent of Pakistanis support him.

The poll also shows that about 81 percent of the people believe their country is headed in the wrong direction, and blamed Zardari for the chaos.

However, a majority of the people prefer an unstable democracy to a military dictatorship, The New York Times reports.

The poll, which was conducted in March just before the Taliban started expanding its writ from the Swat Valley to other parts of the province, showed only 10 percent of Pakistanis considering terrorism as the most important issue facing the country. They ranked the economy at the top of their concerns.

Sixty-nine percent agreed that having the Taliban and Al Qaeda operate in Pakistan is a serious problem, and 52 percent opposed using the army to fight extremists in the NWFP and the neighboring tribal regions along the Afghanistan border.(ANI)

Intense social and political changes in Pak can explode into Islamist revolution : Expert

Washington, May 2 (ANI): With the Taliban gaining ground and establishing its writ in newer regions of Pakistan, the intense social and political changes that the country is witnessing could ultimately explode into a full blown Islamist revolution, experts believe.

The Obama Administration, which has expressed its concern over the precarious condition of Pakistan, has sent a host of top officials to Islamabad to discuss the issue, but it still remains unclear that whether Obama has a clear cut idea as to what he wants to do and achieve in Pakistan, vice-president of the Heritage Foundation Kim Holmes said.

Holmes, in an article, said that Washington must develop a more enhanced and logical and long term policy for the troubled state, safety of which is directly related to the safety and peace of South Asia, and even the US and Europe.

He warns that with such a volatile situation at hand, Obama must avoid making any false move, as it could have dire consequences in near future.

Reffering to the US role in defusing tension between President Zardari and former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during the recent political bedlam in the country, Holmes said Washington should not personalize politics in Pakistan, instead, it should pursue a consistent policy of supporting democratic institutions and processes in the country.

Furthermore, Pakistan may also want the US to get more directly involved in resolving the Kashmir dispute and to pressure India to make concessions. This would certainly damage the relationships between New Delhi and Washington.

Holmes said that any such attempt by the US, besides damaging relations would further destabilize the Kashmir region by raising false expectations and giving extremists reason to increase violence to push an agenda they believe in within their reach.(ANI)

Nawaz informed US before conducting nuclear tests in 1998 , reveals book

Islamabad, Apr.16 (ANI): Pakistan had given the United States prior intimation about its decision to conduct its first nuclear test, a book authored by Gohar Ayub Khan has revealed.

According to the book titled “Testing Times as Foreign Minister”, Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had written two separate letters to the then US President Bill Clinton and the UN General Secretary, explaining the reasons behind the nuclear tests which were conducted on May 28, 1998, The News reported.

“Having exhausted all options and left with no choice, we have in our supreme national interest decided to exercise the nuclear option. This decision, which I have taken with a heavy heart, was necessitated by the imperatives of self-defence and to deter aggression against sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of our country,” the excerpt of the letter to Clinton said.

In his letter Sharif also criticized the international community for adopting a lenient attitude towards India following its decision to cross the nuclear threshold.

“While I was deeply appreciative of your personal understanding of our security concerns, the overall international response to India’s crossing of the nuclear threshold was regrettably deferential, bordering on acquiescence. We saw a familiar pattern whereby India’s incremental steps on the nuclear and ballistic ladder had only generated pressures and even punitive actions against Pakistan,” the letter further adds.

Sharif, in his letter, charged India of creating a strategic imbalance in the region by unleashing an overt nuclear weaponisation.

“At this critical juncture, at which our very life and existence are at stake, the people of Pakistan were unanimous in demanding that we seek to rectify the strategic imbalance resulting from nuclear weaponisation by India,” it stated. (ANI)

Sharif would talk to India if Mumbai like attacks took place in Pak

Lahore,Apr.12 (ANI): While India has taken a tough stance scrapping all bilateral talks with Pakistan in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks ,former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that he would have initiated talks with the neighbouring country if such an incident had occurred on his own soil.

“If I were the prime minister, I would have seen how concerned India was and what India’s involvement was. I would find out if India was responsible or non-state actors in India were actually trying to subvert relations between the two countries. And if I came to the conclusion that there are non-state actors operating within India, then I would have sat down with India,” The Daily Times quoted Sharif, as saying.

Sharif said he would have worked to chalk out a strategy to thwart all steps which threatened peace between India and Pakistan.

Sharif blamed the eight year long dictatorial rule of Pervez Musharraf for the present precarious condition in the country.

“Dictatorship was an excellent breeding ground for radicalism and terrorism,” he added.

Sharif also dispelled the rumours about him having personal animosity with President Asif Ali Zardari.

When enquired about the fears of the Taliban taking over the country, Sharif said he he did not fear a larger Talibanisation of Pakistan. (ANI)

Sharif charges Bush, Musharraf for promoting terrorism in Pakistan

Lahore, Apr.2 (ANI): Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has charged former US President George W. Bush and his then Pakistan counterpart General Pervez Musharraf of promoting terrorism in the region.

Sharif said Bush’s wrong policies for the region were aptly supported by Musharraf which has resulted in the present day scenario where Pakistan is facing dangerous threat from rising extremism.

“Bush gave blind support to Musharraf and turned a blind eye to all the atrocities at home that he committed in his eight year of dictatorial rule,” The News quoted Sharif, as saying.

Sharif said that Musharraf never wanted to establish democracy in the country.

“He never was keen that Pakistan should get back to the democratic path,” he said.

Commenting on the revamped US policy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Sharif said it was not much different from the one pursued by the Bush Administration.

“Obama has now come up with a new policy with little changes, very minor changes as compared to the last policy,” Sharif added. (ANI)

New US administration much better than previous one: Nawaz

Lahore, Mar. 31 (ANI): Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said that the new U. S. administration was better than the previous one.

His statement came after US President Barack Obama announced new policy for Pakistan and Afghanistan last week.

“We are willing to address the concerns of all our allies and friends. I think they should also understand our problems. It has to be reciprocal,” Nawaz said.

The PML-N chief also called for an end to American drone attacks on tribal regions, which have led to civilian casualties and inflamed anti-American sentiment.

“Some of the policies followed by former US President George W. Bush have given rise to a lot of anti-American feeling in Pakistan. For example the drone attacks are affecting our relationship. The people of Pakistan have criticised them very severely. It damages the sovereignty of our country. On this issue the United States of America must move carefully,” The News quoted Sharif as saying. (ANI)

Sharif brothers’ file petition in Supreme Court to make them parties in disqualification case

Islamabad, Mar.28 (ANI): Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and deposed Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif have filed a petition in the Supreme Court pleading to the apex court to make them parties in the disqualification revision petitions’ hearings.

Advocates Abid Hassan Manto and Khawaja Haris filed the petition on behalf of the leaders, and also urged the court to declare the earlier ex-party decision as obsolete.

According to The News, two other petitions were also filed for issuing a stay order against the disqualification verdict till the review petition is heard.

The review petition was filed soon after the Pakistani government decided to reinstate the judiciary and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to the November 2007 position, following a country-wide protest by the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan in its verdict on February 25 had termed the Sharif brothers’ ‘ineligible’ for contesting elections and holding office. (ANI)

Foreign Policy magazine ranks Zardari fifth biggest loser in World

Washington, Mar.23 (ANI): The famous Foreign Policy magazine has ranked Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari as the fifth biggest loser in the world.

“Zardari was known to be a bad guy long before he became Pakistan’s president. Many of the closest friends of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, could not stand him. Now, as it turns out, neither can most of the Pakistani people,” the magazine stated.

According to the magazine, Zardari’s giving in to the demands of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s of reinstating the judiciary and particularly former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has made him weaker.

“He’s on the ropes, his opposition is gaining strength, and meanwhile fraught, dangerous, complex Pakistan is hardly being governed at all,” the magazine said.

Other biggest losers in the list are US Democratic Senator, Chris Dodd at number four, US swindler Bernie Madoff at number three, and the Roman Catholic Pope on the second spot for his ‘out of touch with the real world’ view.

The magazine has termed Pope’s papacy as a ‘disaster’, The News reports.

Austrian businessman, Josef Fritzl has been ranked the number one loser.

Fritzl, 73, is currently facing trial for putting his own daughter in a dungeon beneath his house and raping her for over 24 years continuously.

The list also has British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on number ten, and Israeli politician Benjamin Netahanyahu on the ninth spot. (ANI)

Miliband hopes all Pakistani political parties would now come together

London, Mar 17 (ANI): British Foreign Secretary David Miliband hopes that all Pakistani political parties would now come together to consolidate democracy and promote impartial justice in the country after the PPP-led Government decided to reinstate Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

“I hope that all parties will now quickly come together around a common agenda to consolidate the political steps made and to agree measures that will strengthen democracy and impartial justice in Pakistan,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

“The steps, taken to defuse the political crisis in Pakistan, show real political leadership by all concerned,” The News quoted him, as saying.

“President Asif Ali Zardari’s decision to reinstate Chief Justice Chaudhry, following his announcements in respect of the recent Supreme Court judgment and the Charter of Democracy, and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s subsequent decision to call off the Long March demonstrate that both men are willing to put the interests of Pakistan first,” he added.

“There is now a real opportunity for the country to move forward and tackle the pressing challenges it faces particularly the mortal threat posed by violent extremists. I look forward to maintaining my close contacts with Pakistan’s leaders and to continuing to work with them as they confront these challenges,” Miliband said.

“There is no room for political divisiveness at this time, and there will be no understanding of a failure to rally the country together,” he pointed. (ANI)

Kayani meets Gilani, threatens to impose emergency in Pakistan

Islamabad, Mar.11 (ANI): Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Asfaq Parvez Kayani met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday morning and reviewed the deteriorating law and order situation in the country on the eve of the proposed “Long March” from Karachi to Islamabad by the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

According to highly placed sources, General Kayani told the Prime Minister that the army could not be a silent spectator to the worsening situation, and added that unless the situation was not brought under control in the next four days, the army would take steps for imposition of an emergency, suspension of all assemblies (national and provincial) and dismissal of President Asif Ali Zardari.

He further said that in the event of that situation, the army would immediately nominate a caretaker interim set-up, which would replace the PPP-led coalition government.

General Kayani’s warning came as the government cracked down on opposition activists in various parts of the country, including Karachi, Multan and Lahore. Dozens of political activists and lawyers were arrested in Islamabad and across the Punjab on Wednesday in a bid to thwart the planned “Long March” on the capital, police said.

Thirty-five political activists and lawyers were arrested in Islamabad during raids launched overnight and continuing beyond daybreak, a senior police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Those rounded up include members of the PML-N, which is headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was last month disqualified from contesting elections.

A top leader in Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party, Raja Zafarul Haq, was placed under house arrest, police said.

Police dressed in civilian clothes attempted to arrest lawyers’ movement leader Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan from his residence early Wednesday morning, but he was not present at the time.

Many lawyers and MPs have gone into hiding to avoid detention, and were unreachable by telephone at their homes and offices.

Police also searched in vain for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who lives just outside the capital.

In Lahore police confirmed further arrests after authorities banned protests and ordered paramilitary troops to be on alert in a bid to prevent this week’s planned ‘long march’ demanding legal reforms.

Punjab MPA Iftikahr Baloch’s house was raided and eight people were arrested from there.

Women Action Forum’s Tahira Abdullah was detained for three hours. She has now been released.

Similar raids also took place in Vehari, Gujranwala, Shaikhupura, Faisalabad and Sialkot.

Pervez Malik, a local leader in PML-N, said police raided the homes of party MPs and arrested ‘dozens’ of workers in Lahore.

Ameer-al Azeem, the Lahore chief of opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami said that ‘some 15 to 20′ workers in the organisation’s youth wing had been detained.

In Multan district, police arrested 28 workers from opposition parties, district PML-N chief, Allah Nawaz Noorani.

There was, however, no immediate confirmation on the numbers from police.

Meanwhile, in Abbotabad, Sharif asked the nation to get ready for offering sacrifices for a revolution in the country.

Addressing a charged rally here on Wednesday, he said the time had come that the people should come on streets to change their destiny. He asked the people to take part in the long march of lawyers, if they wanted to change their fate.

He charged President Zardari with again introducing the politics of horse-trading in the country.

He lauded the efforts of Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Sardar Mehtab Khan and Pir Sabir Shah for the restoration of deposed judges and supremacy of constitution.

“Today is a defining moment in Pakistan’s history. We can change the destiny of this country. Pakistan stands at a crossroads today and it is your duty to save it. We want to change this outdated system because it poses a danger to our existence and they want to charge me for sedition,” he told a rally of thousands of supporters, who cheered and waved party banners. (ANI)

Pakistan braces for turmoil as Zardari’s hold loosens

Islamabad¬† – Fears are growing that the Pakistani opposition’s planned march on Islamabad this week might throw the nuclear-armed country into chaos and put the political future of pro-Western President Asif Ali Zardari at risk.

The political confrontation could also drive Pakistan away from its fight against extremism and efforts to overcome its economic crisis, two prime concerns Western governments want the Islamic country to focus upon.

An alliance of opposition parties, headed by two-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the influential legal community, plans to start a protest rally, dubbed a long march, from the southern port city of Karachi Thursday and reach Islamabad four days later.

It plans to hold a sit-in in the capital until its demand for the restoration of the judiciary under independent-minded former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is met.

The march was expected to swell in numbers as it travels through the eastern province of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populace region and a stronghold of Sharif.

“It will have very dangerous dynamics for the country,” said Rasool Bux Raees, a political science professor at the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences. “Violence, instability, protests, strikes and more confrontation will grow, and the government has not really realized the gravity of the situation.”

Sharif’s conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz joined Zardari’s liberal Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in a coalition government after February 2008 elections, which saw the defeat of the political supporters of former military strongman Pervez Musharraf and the restoration of civilian rule after eight years.

But Sharif parted from Zardari after the president showed reluctance in fulfilling his promise of reinstating Chaudhry, who was sacked by Musharraf under emergency rule in late 2007.

The rift between the two widened last month when judges loyal to Zardari banned Sharif from elected office and nullified the election of his brother Shahbaz Sharif, suspending his provincial government in Punjab. Zardari said he did not dictate the verdict.

The February 25 court ruling triggered occasionally violent, countrywide protests and kept businesses closed for three days in Punjab, home to more than 60 per cent of Pakistan’s 160 million people.

The concerns have grown in Washington and other Western capitals that the political infighting would divert Pakistan’s attention from its fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants launching cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said last week that the two leaders should put their differences aside and unite against the “mortal threat Pakistan faces,” but the advice was not heeded by either side.

The efforts for mediation between the traditional opponents by US and British envoys also were unfruitful.

In a move that was likely to fail ahead of this week’s march, the Pakistani government banned rallies in Punjab and arrested dozens of Sharif’s supporters in a countrywide crackdown early Wednesday. Thousands of paramilitary troops were called in, and police were alerted to stop the protesters from entering the capital.

Pakistan’s top security official, Rehman Malik, warned Sharif that his anti-government speeches are tantamount to sedition, which may be punished by a life sentence.

“Unfortunately, President Zardari and his loyalists have little political experience,” Raees said. “They live in self-delusion that they can control the situation and suppress the opposition.

“Instead of finding the political means to resolve the issue, he is trying to block the rallies, but such attempts are unlikely to defeat the resolve of the seemingly charged opposition.”

“And this is also going to put his own political future at stake,” the professor added.

Zardari rose to power by chance after his wife, Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was killed in a gun-and-bomb suicide attack during an election rally in late 2007. He became the head of her PPP and eventually the president.

But he has remained unpopular among the public for alleged corruption involving more than 1 billion US dollars during Bhutto’s 1993-96 premiership.

Dissenting voices also emerged recently in his own party, challenging his decision to ignore senior party leaders and appoint inexperienced but loyal friends to key government posts.

The PPP’s leader in the Senate and Bhutto’s close aide, Raza Rabbani, resigned as a federal minister and Senator Enver Baig quit the chairmanship of the Senate’s foreign affairs committee in protest over Zardari’s nepotism, media reports said Tuesday.

There was also speculation about tensions escalating between Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, also of the PPP. Gilani has occasionally resisted directives from Zardari, media reports said.

“From day one, Mr Zardari has tried to grab all powers for himself, and this has left him with few friends and many enemies,” said the analyst and retired military general Talat Masood.

“It seems now that he has fallen in his own trap,” Masood said, warning that if the crisis becomes acute, the country’s military might intervene. “I don’t see any future for him. Only a miracle will save him.”

But Raees argued the military was unlikely to intercede. “Given the international scenario, the military is not in a position to take over as it has done in such political deadlocks in the past,” the professor said.

“But if the political disorder grows further it might adopt a minus-Zardari formula that would amount to a removal of Zardari and bringing together all the political forces under certain parameters,” he added. (dpa)