ISLAMABAD, Nov 24: The All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) on Saturday announced that it would boycott the Jan 8 elections.

The action committee of the 17-party alliance gave a four-day ultimatum to the government to lift the state of emergency and withdraw the Provisional Constitution Order, restore the Constitution and the pre-PCO judiciary and release all political activists, lawyers and judges.

MMA secretary-general and JUI (F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman did not attend the meeting and instead sent his representatives. It was the second time that Maulana Fazl did not attend the alliance’s meeting.

The poll boycott decision was also endorsed by PML (N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif.

Another meeting of the APDM will be convened after four days to work out further strategy.

In reply to a question about Maulana Fazl’s absence from the meeting, MMA president Qazi Hussain Ahmed said: “I am responsible for my own party. I am wholeheartedly with the APDM and back its decision. I cannot guarantee that Maulana Fazlur will also follow the alliance’s policy.”

The meeting, convened by PML (N) chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, was held at the residence of Mian Mohammad Aslam, a former MMA MNA. It was attended among others by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, senior MMA leader Liaquat Baloch, PML (N) leaders Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, PTI chief Imran Khan, Balochistan National Movement president Dr Abdul Hayee Baloch and ANP leader Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Raja Zafar said all those members of APDM parties who had filed their nomination papers and those who had yet to do so would not contest the elections. “The elections are being held to legitimise the unconstitutional actions taken by Gen Musharraf on and after Nov 3,” he said.

The PML (N) leader appealed to other political parties, including the PPP, to join hands in a movement against the government. He said the alliance would boycott the elections and launch a movement against the government if it failed to accept the APDM’s demands in four days.

He called for restoration of the Constitution and judiciary and release of all political workers. He said the alliance’s boycott decision was unanimous.

He said the country’s institutions, including the armed forces, had been destroyed. He added that Pakistan had been isolated after the Commonwealth had suspended its membership and 22 countries refused to trade with it.

He said the armed forces were being pitted against people in Balochistan, Fata and now the NWFP.

Qazi Hussain said he would consult the Shoora and take into confidence other parties in the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal over the decision to boycott the elections.

He said the APDM endorsed the resolution of the Pakistan Bar Council calling for restoration of the judiciary in the pre-emergency shape.

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