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Pakistan's Sharif says he'll return home Sept. 10 to challenge Musharraf

Pakistan's Sharif says he'll return home Sept. 10 to challenge Musharraf

Former Pakistani leader Nawaz Sharif said Thursday he would return home from exile on Sept. 10 to challenge President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's plans to extend his rule.
Sharif told reporters in London that he would return to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, shortly before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and return to his power base in the country's east.
"Inshallah (God willing), it will be on the 10th of September that we will land in Islamabad and go to Lahore by road," Sharif said.
The announcement comes a day after Benazir Bhutto, another exiled former premier and Sharif's rival, said she was progressing toward an agreement with Musharraf that could see them share power.
Bhutto claimed Musharraf had agreed to step down as head of the army, ending military rule eight years after the general ousted Sharif in a bloodless coup.
Sharif immediately challenged any agreement.
"If a deal is struck between Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Musharraf, it will not serve the cause of restoring democracy to Pakistan," he said. "It will only be strengthening the hands of a dictator, and we want to get rid of the dictatorship in Pakistan."
The Supreme Court ruled last week that the conservative, secularist Sharif, who has been in exile since 2000, and his politician brother could return to Pakistan.
However, Pakistani government officials have said that Sharif, who insists Musharraf must be removed from both the government and the army, could be re-arrested upon reaching Pakistani soil on charges dating to the 1999 coup.
Musharraf had vowed to prevent both Bhutto and Sharif from entering Pakistan again, blaming them for corruption and economic problems that nearly bankrupted the country in the 1990s, when each had two turns as prime minister.
With Musharraf's support eroding, he has edged toward an alliance with Bhutto and her moderate Pakistan People's Party so he can be re-elected as a strong civilian president backed by a friendly parliament.
Under the proposed pact, the government would drop corruption cases against Bhutto to allow her to return home and abolish regulations that prevent her from serving a third term as prime minister.
But Sharif's return could trigger political turmoil and upset their calculations.


Updated : 2021-03-01 09:06 GMT+08:00