Pakistan's main opposition Pakistan Muslim Lea-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif has demanded early elections, amidst speculation about the future of beleaguered President Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government that has been rocked by string of crises.
Former premier Sharif, also attacked the country's security establishment and said had they confined itself to their prescribed professional role, political parties would not have been facing problems and Pakistan would have been "treading the path of set goals like India".
Sharif, who is currently visiting Karachi to drum up support for the PML-N in southern Sindh province, made the call for early polls during several interactions with the media.
The situation will deteriorate further if the PPP-led government does not resign and hold elections, he contended.
"We wanted this government to complete its full term but President Zardari has miserably failed despite the fact he had a golden opportunity to prove himself," Sharif told reporters.
"Wisdom demands that the PPP seek a fresh mandate because it is the only way to wriggle out from the morass they find themselves in," he said.
It is in the government's interest to hold early polls "to maintain some credibility and avoid more pressure" as its credibility has already been damaged, he added.
The PML-N has piled on pressure on the federal government and the President on several fronts in recent weeks.
Sharif is among petitioners who have approached the Supreme Court to order a probe into an alleged memo that had sought US help to prevent a feared coup in Pakistan in May.
Pakistan's next general election is not due before February 2013. PML-N leaders have repeatedly attacked the government and the President for their perceived poor governance and alleged corruption.
Speculation about the future of the government gained ground after Zardari abruptly left Pakistan for Dubai to seek treatment for a heart condition.
The President returned to Pakistan on December 19 just before the court resumed hearing the petitions on the memogate scandal.
Both Sharif and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan have been vocal in demanding early polls.
At the same time, Sharif has been warily eyeing the rise of Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party, which the PML-N claims is backed by the military establishment.
Against the backdrop of such concerns, Sharif has said the parliament should have oversight over the budgets of the army and ISI in order to address the imbalance in civil-military relations.
"I've said before that the army's budget should be presented before parliament -- that is a first step.
"The (intelligence) agencies' budget should also not be secret. Parliament should approve and audit the budgets," Sharif told reporters.
Sharif contended that the security establishment was playing a "big role" in the growth of Imran Khan's party.
He made it clear that the establishment should not be forming or breaking political parties.
"Now times have changed and the country can no longer tolerate such games," he said.
If the security establishment had confined itself to its prescribed professional role, political parties would not have been facing problems and Pakistan would have been "treading the path of set goals like India", he said.