Sharif plans to contest by-elections
Thursday, 28 February 2008

Agence France-Presse . Islamabad

Pakistan's former premier Nawaz Sharif is planning to contest by-elections, his spokesman said Tuesday, which could make him eligible to run for prime minister in the newly-elected government.

His politician brother Shahbaz Sharif will also stand, said Siddiqul Farooq, spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League-N, which emerged as the second biggest party in last week's parliamentary elections.

'There is no dearth of vacant seats and the Sharifs can contest by-elections without any problem,' Farooq said.

The PML-N has joined forces with slain former premier Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, which won the most seats in the February 18 polls. The two parties trounced the allies of president Pervez Musharraf.

Election officials barred the Sharif brothers from running in the general election, citing criminal convictions dating back to events surrounding a 1999 coup and pending criminal charges.

They will now have to reapply to the authorities.

If Sharif wins a seat, he could then be put forward as a candidate for prime Minster. He has twice served in the top job, before he was ousted by Musharraf in the 1999 coup and sent into exile.

The coalition partners have, however, said that the PPP will choose the prime Minster. Vice chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim, a party loyalist who was close to Benazir, is widely expected to be named when parliament convenes next month.

A number of constituencies will hold by-elections in the coming weeks, mostly after candidates' deaths or because politicians gave up seats after winning in more than one constituency.

Sharif later said the coalition would imminently have the two-thirds majority in parliament that it needs to start impeachment proceedings against Musharraf.

A small nationalist party that ousted Islamic hardliners from power in northwest Pakistan has also said it will join the coalition, while PPP and PML-N officials say several independents are also set to join.

'(Wednesday) we have called a meeting and we will show them that we have a two-thirds majority,' Nawaz Sharif told a news conference in the eastern city of Lahore. 'There should be no delay in convening the national assembly,' he added, referring to the lower house of parliament which is set to meet in coming days, the first time since the elections.

Sharif reiterated earlier statements that top judges sacked by Musharraf under a state of emergency in November should be restored first so they can decide the legality of the president's re-election in October last year.

'The people of Pakistan have given their verdict, from every corner the verdict has come, and there is only one meaning to this verdict: Musharraf, goodbye,' Sharif said.

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