LAHORE, Jan 16: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has demanded formation of a government of national consensus without President Pervez Musharraf and reconstitution of the Election Commission with Justice Rana Bhagwandas as its chief, to give credence to the electoral process.

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader alleged at a press conference here on Wednesday that the caretaker government was an extension of the PML-Q. He said free and fair polls were not possible under the current chief election commissioner.

He said he would not object to a postponement of polls for a couple of weeks if his demands were met.

He said the reconstituted Election Commission should announce a new poll schedule so that Qazi Husain Ahmad, Imran Khan and other leaders of the All Parties’ Democratic Movement (APDM) and the Pakistan Oppressed Nations’ Movement (PONM) could take part in the electoral exercise and in efforts to solve the problems faced by the country.

“Musharraf must resign and the Senate chairman should form a consensus government after consulting all the political parties. The new set-up should reconstitute the Election Commission to be headed by Justice Rana Bhagwandas. This is the solution to 95 per cent of the ailments the country is suffering from,” he said.

Mr Sharif warned that if his demands were not met the election would lead the country to more chaos.

He, however, made it clear that the PML-N would contest the election.

In reply to a question, he said he had been talking of a national government even when he was in London. He said he wanted the armed forces to limit themselves to the role envisaged in the Constitution.

Blaming President Musharraf for all the problems, from the deteriorating law and order situation to price-hike and loadshedding, he said the ouster of the former army chief would create conditions for fair and free election and end bomb explosions.

Accusing the PML-Q of working on a plan for ‘massive’ poll rigging with the help of government officials, he cautioned that their activities were being monitored in every constituency. He urged the officials to perform their duties honestly, meeting all constitutional and legal requirements.

The PML-N leader said the first point in his party’s manifesto was restoring the judiciary as it was on Nov 2, 2007. He said he would soon administer oath to all PML-N candidates to work for the cause in parliament. The future of the country depended on restoration of the deposed judges, he said.

Commenting on a statement by President Musharraf that the next government would continue his policies, Mr Sharif said the former army chief had not achieved anything worthwhile during his eight-year rule.

“Is he referring to his policies of abrogating the Constitution, ousting an elected government, handcuffing the prime minister and exiling him, giving the Steel Mills to cronies at a throwaway price, bombing our masses and kidnapping people from their homes, giving the gifts of price-hike and loadshedding to the nation, killing persons like Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti and incarcerating judges and lawyers?”

Answering a question, he said the situation of uncertainty created by the Musharraf had provided an opportunity to foreign powers to raise concerns about the nuclear assets of the country. “Had our house been in order no one would have dared to talk about our nuclear assets.”

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