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Complete Coverage: Emergency in Pakistan
The regime of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] has invited ex-Premier Nawaz Sharif's brother Shahbaz to be part of the national government to be formed before next month's general election and proposed a future role for him after the polls, according to a media report.
Shahbaz, the president of PML-N party, dashed to Islamabad on Saturday for a day-long visit, during which he held separate meetings with Brigadier (retired) Niaz Ahmad, a close aide of Musharraf, Saudi Ambassador Ali Awadhi Al Asseri and Wajahat Latif, former chief of the Federal Investigation Agency.
PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal had denied reports of contacts between the military regime and the party, saying Shahbaz was meeting Ahmad as the latter was a close friend and was unwell.
Local daily Dawn, however, quoted sources as saying that Ahmad had passed on a message from Musharraf to Shahbaz "about the formation of a national government before the general election."
Sources in the PML-N said Musharraf had suggested that Shahbaz should become a part of the proposed government. They said Musharraf had also proposed a future role for Shahbaz after the February 18 parliamentary polls.
Shahbaz told Ahmad that he would not reply to the proposals without consulting his brother, the sources said.
This was the second meeting between Shahbaz and Ahmad last week. Neither side would confirm or deny that they had met earlier.
Speculation about negotiations between the PML-N and the regime increased as Shahbaz also met the ambassador of Saudi Arabia, which played a key role in the return of the Sharif brothers to Pakistan from exile in November
The sources also said Ahmad had requested the Sharif brothers to soften the language against Musharraf at their public meetings.
Ahmad, a former instructor to Musharraf, has been negotiating with PML-N and PPP leaders for the past few years and had held several meeting with the Sharif brothers while they were in exile in London [Images] and Saudi Arabia.
A group of reporters spotted Shahbaz on Saturday, outside the residence of the retired brigadier when he was leaving after their meeting. Shahbaz told them his meeting with Ahmad should not be construed as a political move and that he had come only to pay a courtesy call.
Shahbaz said free and fair elections were unlikely as the government was making every effort to rig them by carrying out massive transfers of government officials after the announcement of the election schedule. He called for the reconstitution of the Election Commission.
PML-N spokesman Iqbal even said Musharraf should quit so that a national unity government could be formed to oversee impartial polls. But senior PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan indicated that the party had officially received some sort of a proposal for forming a national unity government.
Tariq Azeem, a minister in former prime minister Shaukat Aziz's cabinet, said that the ruling PML-Q had been 'weighing the pros and cons of a national unity government for some time'. He denied that the proposal was aimed at delaying the general election.
"The formation of a national government before the elections would allay fears of poll rigging," Azeem said.
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