|Is this significant?
Two exiled former prime ministers of Pakistan will launch a joint attempt this week to drive the current president, Pervez Musharraf, from power.
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif agreed to join forces during a meeting in London after weeks of political crisis in Pakistan have left its military strongman with a tenuous grip on power.
Thousands of their supporters are expected to take to the streets tomorrow in co-ordinated demonstrations, culminating in a rally in the capital, Islamabad.
Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party and Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League will protest against Gen Musharraf’s decision to sack the country’s chief justice, who had opposed his attempts to cling to power. But last night a close ally of Miss Bhutto, who has twice been prime minister, made clear that the removal of Gen Musharraf, who is also army chief of staff, is the ultimate goal.
Wajid Shams-ul-Hasan, the former Pakistani high commissioner in Britain, said: “The seriousness of the crisis in Pakistan means that we have formulated a joint strategy to neutralise Gen Musharraf and to ensure that the next elections are free and fair. This has become a very explosive situation for Musharraf. He should go and the army should go back to barracks.” A spokesman for Sharif said: “We want his resignation and then free and fair elections without Musharraf. With him sitting there, you cannot get free elections.”
The current crisis arose because Gen Musharraf wants Pakistan’s National Assembly to rubber stamp his rule for another five years before it is dissolved for elections, due later this year.
The chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, had said the plans were unconstitutional and pressed for Gen Musharraf to surrender his army post as well. Gen Musharraf -suspended him on March 9 claiming the judge had abused his position, provoking the worst crisis since he overthrew Mr Sharif and seized power in a military coup in 1999.
The pact between Sharif and Bhutto is significant since, until now, the public protests over the crisis have been led by lawyers rather than politicians.