Sharif's Party to Boycott Elections
Sharif's Party to Boycott Elections
Dec 27 01:51 PM US/Eastern
By ZARAR KHAN
Associated Press Writer
Bhutto Rival: Saddest Day In Pakistans History
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) - Pakistani opposition
leader Nawaz Sharif announced Thursday his party was
boycotting next month's elections following the
assassination of Benazir Bhutto. He demanded that
President Pervez Musharraf resign immediately.
"The holding of fair and free elections is not
possible in the presence of Pervez Musharraf. After
the killing of Benazir Bhutto, I announce that the
Pakistan Muslim League-N will boycott the elections,"
Sharif told a news conference, referring to his party.
Sharif urged other parties to join the boycott of the
Jan. 8 parliamentary elections. A collective response,
including by Bhutto's own party could seriously
undermine the legitimacy of the vote as Musharraf
attempts to engineer a transition to democracy after
eight years of military rule.
"I demand that Musharraf should quit immediately," he
said. "Musharraf is the cause of all the problems. The
federation of Pakistan cannot remain in tact in the
presence of President Musharraf."
Sharif, 57, was a longtime rival of Bhutto as the two
vied for power in the late 1980s and 1990s. He was
ousted in the 1999 coup that brought Musharraf to
Sharif said after three days of mourning, he would
chalk out a strategy to challenge Musharraf's rule but
he rebutted suggestions that he could gain political
capital from her demise.
"I think nobody stands to gain and nobody should be
looking for any gains," he told the British
Broadcasting Corp. "It's a very serious situation for
the country today."
As word of Bhutto's death spread throughout a shaken
and distraught Pakistan, Sharif rushed to the
Rawalpindi hospital where she died and sat silently
next to her body.
"Benazir Bhutto was also my sister, and I will be with
you to take the revenge for her death," he said
afterward, his eyes at times welling up with tears.
"Don't feel alone. I am with you. We will take the
revenge on the rulers."
Bhutto, like Sharif a two-time former prime minister,
was hopeful of winning a third term. Election
authorities have disqualified Sharif from contesting a
seat because of court convictions.
Bhutto's death will leave Sharif as the most prominent
leader of a secular political party in Pakistan.
Bhutto's supporters erupted in anger and grief,
attacking police and rioting in several cities. At the
hospital where she died, some smashed glass and
wailed, chanting slogans against Musharraf.
The gathering unrest stoked fears of mass protests and
violence across the nuclear-armed nation, an important
U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.
For Sharif, the path forward was far from clear.
"I think we all have to seriously think about how to
move ahead because such incidents are something
absolutely unusual or unheard of," he told CNN. "We
have never been confronted with this kind of a
situation in our public life in Pakistan."
Pakistan, however, has seen its share of political
violence, and Islamic militants have repeatedly
targeted top figures in Musharraf's government. Last
weekend, a suicide bomber targeted former Interior
Minister Aftab Sherpao inside a mosque, killing 56
Sharif, a law graduate and the son of a leading
industrialist who is considered religiously
conservative, rose to prominence under Gen. Zia
ul-Haq's military regime in the 1980s, becoming the
chief minister of the eastern province of Punjab.
He went on to lead the Pakistan Muslim League and
became Bhutto's chief rival in the struggle for power
during a turbulent decade of civilian rule.
Sharif was ousted in 1999 by then-army chief
Musharraf. Sharif went into exile, living for most of
the time in Saudi Arabia, before returning last month
to challenge Musharraf once more.