Nawaz Agree on Charter of Democracy for Pakistan
February 11: Pakistan's two top opposition leaders, former prime
ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, met in exile on Thursday
and pledged to fight together for the restoration of a "real
democracy" in their homeland.
Bhutto met with her erstwhile
rival in the western Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, where Sharif
has lived since his exile in late 2000. Bhutto has spent the past
five years in self-imposed exile for fear of arrest on corruption
The meeting, which lasted for
two and a half hours, was their first since President Pervez Musharraf
ousted Sharif in a bloodless and popular military coup in late
against Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led war on terrorism,
has fallen into disarray without any strong personality inside
Pakistan. Parliamentary elections are due in 2007.
was accompanied by her husband Asif Ali Zardari, who was released
on bail in November after spending eight years in jail on charges
ranging from murder to corruption. (Picture shows
Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, BB and Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif).
Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League
issued a statement after the meeting saying Pakistan must revert
to "real democracy" as soon as possible through free,
fair and transparent elections.
"Both parties will cooperate
and work at every level to achieve this sacred goal," it
said. "They resolved that they would not act in any way that
would help non-democratic forces to negate ... democratic rights
of the people of Pakistan."
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) issued a similar statement. "Both
leaders agreed to adopt a minimum program for restoration of democracy
in Pakistan," it said.
secured a mandate to become president after holding a referendum
in 2002, which critics say was rigged in his favor. Parliamentary
elections in the same year brought a pro-military government to
He argues that genuine democracy
is working in Pakistan and rejects calls for elections earlier
Islamists provide the main opposition
to Musharraf, who has co-opted the rump of Sharif's Muslim League
to back his government.
Many observers, however, believe
General Musharraf's natural constituency lies within the more
liberal ranks of the PPP, but mutual dislike with Bhutto has prevented
any deal so far.
Musharraf, who has in the past
derided both former prime ministers as venal politicians, has
made reconciliatory moves in recent months -- most notably through
the release of Zardari.
The government also returned the
passport of a nephew of Sharif to let him go abroad to see his
observers believe Musharraf may be seeking to find favor. with
the PPP and Sharif's Muslim League faction after angering Islamist
parties by going back on his promise to step down as army chief
by the end of last year.
reports: Former Pakistani premiers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif
have signed a three-point agreement for promoting democracy in
Pakistan. The pact was made in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Thursday,
during their first ever meeting as opposition leaders.
calls for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan, an independent
election commission and respect for popular mandate. The
two have been campaigning in exile against President Pervez Musharraf.
federal minister and leader of Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League
(PML) Ahsan Iqbal told the BBC Urdu service from Jeddah that the
agreement was reached during the three hour meeting.
Iqbal said the two leaders also agreed to set up working groups
within their respective parties to draw up a wide-ranging charter
for democracy. There
were no public statements on their discussions from the leaders
Saudi authorities prohibit the
use of their soil for all forms of political activity by those
in opposition at home.
But observers in Pakistan were
attaching significant importance to the meeting despite the prohibition.
Ms Bhutto also took the opportunity
to condole the death of Mr Sharif's father while the latter congratulated
her on the release of her husband, Asif Ali Zardari.
Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif's respective
political parties are opposing the government of General Pervez
Musharraf under the umbrella of the Alliance for the Restoration
of Democracy (ARD).
Ms Bhutto has been in self-imposed
exile - shuttling between Dubai and London - since being ousted
by the military in 1996.
Likewise, Mr Sharif was evicted
from Pakistan under a deal with the Saudi authorities, a few months
after he was convicted of criminal conspiracy by a Pakistani court
in the year 2000.
the agreement, Mr Sharif is barred from returning to Pakistan
till 2010. - Reuters/BBC