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Nawaz calls on king, meets Fazl

September 17, 2007

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JEDDAH, Sept 16: Since landing here on September 10 after his deportation from Islamabad, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been striving over the past week to get over an apparent ban on his political activities. During these days, he has remained almost incommunicado, confined to his ‘Sharif Palace’ in the posh Al-Hamra district of this Red Sea City and attempts to contact him have been futile.

However, the PML-N leader who had been desperately trying to get in touch with the Saudi leadership, succeeded on Saturday evening when he was allowed to call on King Abdullah at the Royal Palace. A brief statement on the meeting by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that the king had met Mr Sharif in Jeddah. No details of the meeting were given, except that they exchanged ‘cordial talks’.

The Saudi Press Agency also circulated a photograph of the meeting and some Saudi newspapers carried it in their Sunday edition.

Analysts here are of the opinion that during the meeting, the king must have stressed the need for Mian Nawaz Sharif to honour commitments and let the temperature cool down in Pakistan.

Some of them also say that the anti-Saudi statements expressed by the Nawaz League and other opposition parties might also have come under discussion. The monarch, they said, might have conveyed his displeasure at the statements being issued by opposition leaders.

Meanwhile, attempts by Mian Sahib to get some of the restrictions relaxed appeared to have succeeded to some extent on Sunday and Maulana Fazal was allowed to call on him and he was invited for iftar at the Sharif Palace

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, Maulana Fazl said Mr Sharif was in good mood and good health. During their talks, they agreed on the need to strengthen the All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM).

The Maulana was of the opinion that in the current circumstances, and if there was no change in status quo, Mr Sharif might have to spend the next three years in the kingdom.

On Mr Sharif’s meeting with King Abdullah, Maulana Fazl said it was meeting between a host and a guest.

On APDM’s decision to resign from the assemblies, he said he would look into it after returning to Pakistan.

It may be mentioned that the Maulana had been trying unsuccessfully to meet Mr Sharif since arriving here a few days ago. On one occasion, he was reported to have been stopped by security personnel posted outside the Sharif Palace.

According to some analysts, despite the meetings between King Abdullah and Mr Sharif, the overall condition under which the former prime minister has been living here may not change at least in the short term, until at least the elections – both presidential and general – are over.