Top PML leaders meet in Islamabad, do
not discuss Sharif's ouster from party
Tahir Ikram in Islamabad
Leaders of Pakistan's former ruling party met today to discuss whether to work with the generals who
ended its 31-month rule in a military coup this month.
Places in a cabinet of technocrats could be at stake for the
leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League whose leader,
Nawaz Sharif, was deposed as prime minister and detained pending an
investigation into allegations of corruption.
With most members of Sharif's ousted cabinet under house
arrest and silent, the party talks grouped top figures who had
escaped an anti-corruption drive by the ten-day-old military
regime of coup leader General Pervez Musharraf.
Some key PML members, including former religious affairs
minister and senior vice-president Ejaz-ul-Haq, have already
publicly distanced themselves from Sharif, thought to be under
house arrest in his native Lahore or near Islamabad.
But party officials said the informal Islamabad gathering
would not discuss dropping Sharif from the PML.
It would review the military's national agenda, spelt out
by Gen Musharraf in a Sunday night broadcast, and plot its next
The PML talks followed a meeting today in Lahore of the
Grand Democratic Alliance, a 19-party opposition umbrella which
clamoured for Sharif to step down for ''incompetence'' in the
weeks that preceded Gen Musharraf's October 12 takeover.
The alliance endorsed the ouster of Sharif and said it
would also support the seven-point agenda of political and
economic reforms announced by Gen Musharraf.
Gen Musharraf has pledged an eventual return to democratic rule
with no time frame and is reported by aides to be selecting
figures for a national security council to run the country with
a cabinet of technocrats to function alongside it.
He promised to induct clean professionals, chosen on merit,
to work in the council and the cabinet and to set up a think
tank to assist the new rulers.
Gen Musharraf also pledged a crackdown on corruption which has
seeped into almost every aspect of Pakistani life. Investigations against several former ruling party members have been initiated though no formal charges have been laid.
Human rights group Amnesty International today urged Gen
Musharraf to charge and give fair trials to members of the ousted
government or immediately release them.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a separate
statement asked the military authorities to ensure that Sharif,
his brother and other members of the former government were not
being harassed and had access to lawyers and family.
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