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Soomro’s Umra journey or ‘diplomatic mission’

September 02, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Sept 1: President Gen Pervez Musharraf, worried by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s announcement to land in Islamabad on Sept 10, has decided to activate every diplomatic channel to stop his arrival, informed sources said on Saturday.

They said that Senate chairman Mohammadmian Soomro had left for Saudi Arabia three days ago ostensibly to perform Umra (as his aides insist), but he carried and delivered a message from the president to an eminent personality in Riyadh.

Mr Soomro’s family sources only said: “He has been abroad for a longer period.”

The Senate protocol office said that he was expected to return home soon.

While the opposition wants Gen Musharraf to step down from both offices and hand over power to the Senate chairman, the sources said, the government seemed to be going flat out to ward off the dangers it perceived in the event of Nawaz Sharif’s return.

Mr Soomro seems to be now part of the last efforts to wither away dangers of political turmoil brewing after Mr Nawaz’s announcement.

It was not clear whether Mr Soomro was able to have a direct audience with the Saudi king, but the sources claimed that a high-level Saudi official made contacts with the Sharif brothers in London.

President Musharraf, at a public meeting in Pind Dadan Khan, had said that a high-ranking Saudi official had communicated to Nawaz Sharif the Saudi government’s desire that he should honour an understanding he reached with the Pakistan government before leaving the country.

PML president Shujaat Hussain’s statement that Mr Sharif was not going to make a comeback was also seen in the light of these diplomatic efforts.

Foreign Office sources said that a meeting was held between a high-profile government emissary and former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in London recently. They claimed that the Saudi envoy in Islamabad, Swad Al-Aseeri, was active and had travelled between Islamabad and Riyadh more than once of late.