LONDON, May 28: Pakistan's ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday accused President Pervez Musharraf of having “masterminded” the killing of some 40 political opponents in Karachi earlier this month.
In an interview with AFP, Sharif, who was ousted by Musharraf in a 1999 bloodless coup, also said the killings of those protesting the removal of a top judge amounted to the “biggest blunder” committed by any Pakistani president.
“Apart from a blunder, it is also a very heinous crime that he has committed,” said Sharif, who has spent the last year and a half in London.
The ousted prime minister charged that Musharraf and MQM party leader Altaf Hussein, who also lives in London, orchestrated the killings because the president faced increasing threats to his grip on power.
He added the British authorities should investigate.
Musharraf's suspension on March 9 of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has sparked a wave of opposition protests as well as the violent street clashes which erupted on May 12 in the port city of Karachi.
“It is he (Musharraf), who in league with the MQM, has done all that. There is no doubt in my mind,” Musharraf said.
“This was state-sponsored carnage, and sanctioned personally by Mr
Musharraf,” said Sharif. “The head of an ethnic party MQM (the Muttahida Qaumi Movement), and Mr Musharraf together masterminded this tragic incident.”
He did not provide evidence but said Musharraf would have been well aware that Chaudhry's plan to travel from Islamabad to Karachi on May 12 would have entailed the risk of violence and he did nothing to prevent it.
“Mr Musharraf could have stopped it because the chief justice had announced his programme two weeks earlier. But the MQM was announcing (its plans) just about two days before the 12th of May,” he said.
Sharif said opposition to Musharraf was growing all the time -- not just from lawyers, but from civil society, political parties and the population at large -- and his political survival was at stake.
“I think the chances (of his staying in power) are bleak and they are getting bleaker day by day,” he said.
Sharif also pledged to return to Pakistan some time before the elections due this year and he admitted he would like to be back in power, but said his first goal was to see Pakistan return to democratic rule.
Musharraf vowed 10 days ago not to allow exiled former premiers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to return ahead of the upcoming general elections.
He says Chief Justice Chaudhry was suspended for misconduct, but the president's opponents say he wants to weaken the courts ahead of any legal challenges to his bid to remain army chief past the constitutional time limit at the end of 2007.