LAHORE, May 14: The long-awaited Charter of Democracy (CoD) was approved and signed by former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif late on Sunday night after several hours of clause-by-clause discussions on the document by the enlarged negotiating teams of the PPP and the PML-N in London.

Talks were held at the residence of former FIA chief Rehman Malik.

The outcome of the second round of talks in three weeks belied assertions by various leaders that the document would not be finalised on Sunday.

The charter commits the two parties to struggle against dictatorship and on coming to power do away with the ‘distortions’ made in the Constitution after the overthrow of the PML-N government.

Disbandment of the National Security Council has also been promised by the charter.

Some of the provisions in the original drafts of the two parties have been dropped. Provisions that former prime ministers be given privileges like those made available to former presidents have also been excluded from the document.

The two sides have also pledged not to approach the army to come to power.

After putting their signatures on the charter, Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif exchanged the pens with which they had finalised the agreement.

Mr Sharif rejected reports that he could strike a deal with the government, saying it was a calculated move to weaken the opposition.

The two former premiers reiterated that free and fair elections were not possible under the supervision of Gen Pervez Musharraf and that both the exiled leaders would return to the country together before the election. However, they did not say that they would return by the same flight.

Asked if the two parties had discussed any schedule for a movement against the government, Makhdoom Amin Fahim said the restoration of democracy was the real issue at present.

He said the possibility of a PPP-PML-N electoral alliance also did not come under discussion.

PPP leaders Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Mian Raza Rabbani, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali, Khurshid Shah, Wajid Shamsul Hasan and PML-N leaders Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Ahsan Iqbal, Syed Ghous Ali Shah, Tehmina Daultana and Khwaja Asif were also present at the meeting.

The previous meeting on the subject was held on April 24 at the residence of Mr Sharif.

The composition of the two delegations showed that both the parties were quite serious Benazir, Nawaz sign Charter of Democracy about finalising the charter which, according to a PML-N leader, was the most important document after the 1973 Constitution.

Talks between the two sides were delayed for some time as, according to a private TV channel, the PPP wanted the PML-N to issue a statement about corruption cases instituted against Ms Bhutto and her spouse

Asif Zardari during the Sharif rule.

According to reports, some Pakistani students held a demonstration outside the venue of the meeting. They reportedly alleged that the two former prime ministers had failed to deliver in the past and they could not be expected to do any better in the future.

It is said that the demonstrators were beaten up by supporters of the two parties.

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