December 10, 2007

Sharif Drops The Boycott

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dropped plans to boycott Pakistan's parliamentary elections after failing to convince other opposition parties to join it. Instead, his party will contest for seats in the assembly while Sharif remains ineligible for office on the basis of convictions reached after his removal from office by Pervez Musharraf:

Pakistan's election campaign began in earnest Monday, a day after former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dropped threats to boycott the ballot to protest the authoritarian rule of President Pervez Musharraf.

Sharif is drawing up plans to tour the country to stump for his Pakistan Muslim League-N party, even though election authorities have rejected his own candidacy, said Sadiq ul-Farooq, senior party official.

The two-time premier will travel to the cities of Faisalabad, Multan, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar in the coming days, ul-Farooq said.

The only significant party boycotting the elections is Jamat-e-Islami, the party of radical Islamists. They will not participate while Musharraf remains in office. This probably pleases Musharraf to no end, since it will further isolate the extremists and make them rather scarce in Parliament on their own volition.

The elections have already produced a winner: Musharraf. By their participation, the major oppoition figures have tacitly endorsed Musharraf's presidential election in October. Musharraf had to resign from the army to get that endorsement, but he now has an almost-assured five-year term as a civilian president to push his agenda for Pakistan. With the surrender of Benazir Bhutto and Sharif on his presidency, he can look to build a political coalition in the new Parliament that pits the former prime ministers against each other.


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