New back channel formula to facilitate Sharifs return to Pakistan

November 23rd, 2007 - 11:45 am ICT by admin  

Islamabad, Nov 23 (ANI): A new formula has been evolved through back-channel diplomacy under which former premier Nawaz Shairfs wife Kulsoom Nawaz and brother Shahbaz Sharif may return to Pakistan earlier, possibly by Sunday, to file their nomination papers for the coming general election.
Highly placed sources privy to some of the negotiations and are following the rapidly changing situation said that if this formula came through, Nawaz might delay his return, and arrive in Pakistan after November 26, which would be his way of avoiding participation in the January 8 elections.
High-level contacts at the international level led to an understanding that Sharif will start toning down his rhetoric, and in the first phase would only send Shahbaz Sharif and Kulsoom Nawaz, they said.
The two would be allowed to submit their nomination papers on an assurance that Nawaz Sharif will return only after Nov 26 the last day for filing nominations papers and will not stand in the elections.
Although nomination papers for the Sharif brothers and Kulsoom Nawaz had already been obtained for three different constituencies in Lahore, a leader of the PML-N said, the party was open to the idea of filing papers for one or two of these leaders.
Nawaz has been invited to Riyadh from his safe house in Jeddah to meet King Abdullah on Friday, and there are strong indications that he might be allowed to return to Pakistan, sources said.
Sharif was expected to travel to Pakistan via London early next week, but things have moved so fast over the last 24 hours that he is now likely to go back home straight from Saudi Arabia, said Nadir Chaudhry, spokesman of Nawaz Sharif.
He denied that Musharraf had allowed Nawaz to return home on the condition that he would not boycott the forthcoming elections.
On the contrary, Nadir said, Musharraf tried to persuade King Abdullah against allowing Nawaz to go back home before the completion of the “10-year exile deal” he had signed with the Saudi authorities in 2000.
Meanwhile, PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal refused to be drawn on the specifics of any of these developments, but admitted that all these options were possible.
Nawaz might return by Sunday, and there was also a possibility that Shahbaz and Kulsoom Nawaz end their exile in the first phase and the former Prime Minister returns later, he added.
“In any case, we have called a meeting of the partys Central Executive Committee in Islamabad on Sunday, and are pretty confident that it will be attended by the leadership that has so far remained in exile,” Iqbal said.
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the head of the pro-Musharraf PML-Q, said that if Nawaz returns to Pakistan before the elections, it would be a result of a “deal” with the Saudi government, and that his party would welcome the development.
The dramatic development, said a highly placed source in the government, came after Musharrafs meeting with the Saudi king two days ago, the Dawn reported.
Although details of the meeting were not made public, sources said that Musharraf was politely told by the Saudi authorities that after Benazir Bhuttos return, it was “extremely difficult to hold back” Nawaz.
Once the thinking of the Saudi government became clear to officials in Islamabad, they resolved to dilute the effect of such a major change in the political atmosphere in the run-up to the elections. (ANI)

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