Sharifs return to Pak makes US, Musharraf uneasy

November 28th, 2007 - 5:36 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad , Nov 28 (ANI): Nawaz Sharifs return to Pakistan from an eight-year exile, has left both the Bush Administration and President Pervez Musharraf uneasy.

The International Herald Tribune quotes Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, as saying that Sharif’s return to Pakistan now is likely to stir deep unease in the Bush Administration, which has stood with Musharraf as its best bet in the fight against terror.

Washington appears to have taken a back seat, or at least a stance of resignation at the inevitable, as the Saudis, perhaps Pakistan ’s most revered ally, engineered Sharifs return, Markey said.

Sharif’s return also complicates the Bush Administration’s support for Benazir Bhutto, whom Washington has favoured as a more secular politician, and a more certain partner for Musharraf against Islamic extremists.

Officials in Washington and London promoted her return from exile in October as a way to present a more compatible face on Musharraf’s increasingly unpopular military regime.

Musharraf to be sworn in as a civilian President for a second consecutive term in Islamabad on Thursday, which would be a belated, though significant, concession to both his political opposition here and to supporters in the Bush Administration who have demanded it as an important step toward restoring democracy in Pakistan.

Sharif’s remarks at a news conference on Monday, however, made clear that it might not be enough to appease Musharraf’s opponents. Sharif condemned his old nemesis for imposing emergency rule on November 3. He also said that he would not serve as Prime Minister under Musharrafs presidency.

Such a forceful stand contrasts in many respects with Sharif’s own time as Prime Minister. He is best remembered here and in Washington as the Pakistani leader who gave the world a nuclear Pakistan , flirted with war with India , and promoted strong ties with religious conservatives.

His tenure was marred by charges of rampant corruption and run-ins with courts and the media as well.

While Bhutto and Sharif are known to detest Musharraf, they detest each other as well. Whether they can form a cohesive opposition against Musharraf before the parliamentary elections set for January 8, is far from clear.

Sharif is the son of a wealthy industrialist and a protege of former military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, a leader who also favoured a conservative religious strain of Islam.

As Prime Minister twice - from 1990 to 1993 and 1997 to 1999 Sharif is remembered by Pakistanis as the leader who decided to test Pakistan ’s nuclear weapons in response to India ’s nuclear tests in 1998.

For some secular Pakistanis, Sharif’s return forebodes a strengthening of the religious right, already more powerful with more seats in Parliament than when he was Prime Minister.

“For me, this is a fight between Wahabism and secular values,” said Fasih Ahmed, 30, a businessman of Lahore . “Nawaz is extremely close to the religious right,” he added. (ANI)

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