Nawaz scorns talks offer

November 20, 2007

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LAHORE, Nov 19: Exiled PML (N) leader Mian Nawaz Sharif has ruled out any possibility of his meeting with President Pervez Musharraf who is going to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday amid speculations that the general, as a result of Saudi mediation, is likely to meet the former prime minister and discuss his return to Pakistan.

In an interview with Dawn from Jeddah on Monday, Mr Sharif said talks between them would be possible only if one of them changed his political stance. But, he declared in categorical terms, he was not prepared to go back on whatever he has been saying since his ouster in October 1999.

“Any meeting with him will not serve any purpose, especially when he (Gen Musharraf) has detained judges and imposed a caretaker set-up of his own choice.”

Replying to a question, the exiled leader said the situation about his return home would become clear soon as his Saudi hosts were aware that he had an important role to play in Pakistan’s politics. “I am expecting positive developments. I hope I will return to Pakistan before the elections,” said Mr Sharif, without elaborating on factors that could make the situation favourable for his return to the country.

“I can’t afford to stay out of the country any more,” said the PML (N) leader, who was deported to Saudi Arabia hours after landing in Islamabad on Sept 10.

Mr Sharif said he had been approached thrice over the past two months for a meeting with Gen Musharraf, but he refused to sit with the general who had toppled a democratic set-up and had been presiding over an unconstitutional system for eight years.

In response to a question, Mr Sharif said if Gen Musharraf gave an undertaking that the army would not interfere in politics in future and also rolled back all the steps he had taken since Nov 3, parties in the All Parties Democratic Movement could think of finding a way out of the present crisis.

Asked why did he not accept the decisions of the new Supreme Court, Mr Sharif said people did not recognise the entity that called itself the apex court.

Let the government hold a referendum to ascertain if the people recognised the present Supreme Court, he said. “They would not accept the court or its decisions.”

About his contacts with Ms Bhutto, Mr Sharif said she had assured him that she would not resume talks with Gen Musharraf and that she would like to work with other opposition parties.

He said the PPP chairperson had also assured him that she would continue to demand the reinstatement of the pre-Nov 3 judiciary.

Her telephone calls, he said, replied all the points he had raised in a letter to her.

Now, he said, the PML (N) fully supported the all-party conference initiative taken by the PPP. He hoped that all opposition parties, including the PPP, would get united on a single platform.

He said opposition parties would take a collective decision on whether to take part in the general elections to be held on January 8. “It’s too early to say whether they would stay out of the electoral process.”

Mr Sharif said his personal opinion was that participation in the elections in the prevailing situation would amount to walking into the trap laid by Gen Musharraf. These elections would be a farce, he concluded.