Nawaz Sharif is Pakistan’s most popular politician: report

March 17th, 2009 - 6:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz Sharif London, March 17 (IANS) Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has emerged as Pakistan’s most popular and shrewd politician despite having been ignored by the US and Britain, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper said Sharif’s plans for a massive Long March last week so alarmed western governments that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not only telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari twice, but also called Nawaz Sharif.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Monday he, too, had spoken to both men.

The paper said Washington and London “strongly urged” the two Pakistani politicians to strike a compromise because their political battle was seen to detract from the fight against Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists.

However, it said Sharif “judged correctly that the security forces would not risk a bloodbath by trying to stop him, and that the pressure on President Zardari from his own prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and army chief General Ashfaq Kiyani would eventually force him to buckle. He had nothing to gain from compromise.”

The paper said Sharif had surprised western officials, who had not expected the Long March to gather so many followers, or Sharif to “remain so defiant”.

“Until now, Mr Sharif has been regarded with some suspicion in the West for his close relationship with the Saudi royal family and for poor governance and bad judgements of his last government in the late 1990s. He is not regarded as biddable as President Zardari.

“He has, however, returned to Pakistan with less swagger, more humility, and has focused his campaign on restoring the authority of the prime minister’s office” after General Pervez Musharraf ousted him in his 1999 coup, the paper said.

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