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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 00:12 GMT
Pakistan rivals plan poll demands
Pakistani opposition leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif
The two leaders have had different views on a possible boycott
Pakistani opposition rivals Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have agreed to issue a set of demands they want met if they are to contest upcoming elections.

The leaders said the parties they lead might boycott January's parliamentary poll if the authorities did not comply.

They said a committee would decide the demands, which correspondents say may include ending the state of emergency imposed by President Pervez Musharraf.

Mr Sharif was earlier barred from standing in the elections.

"In the present circumstances free, fair and transparent elections seem impossible," said Mr Sharif at a joint press conference.

Emergency rule has been in place since 3 November, when Mr Musharraf sacked judges correspondents say he feared would rule against him on a legal challenge to his re-election. He also detained thousands of lawyers, judges and political opponents.

He has since stepped down as head of the army and released many of the detainees.

But the sacked judges have not been reinstated and Mr Musharraf has appointed an interim government, largely of his own allies, to oversee the elections.


Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif had been struggling to agree a common position on a possible boycott of the elections scheduled for 8 January.

Nawaz Sharif
Mr Sharif is expected to appeal against the ban
Mr Sharif had called for a boycott, but Ms Bhutto had indicated that a boycott would play into Mr Musharraf's hands.

However, Ms Bhutto said that agreeing the demands would be a "major confidence-building measure" between the two leaders - both former prime ministers who have recently returned from exile.

The BBC's Dan Isaacs in Islamabad says reforms to the electoral commission and the caretaker government are likely to be on the list.

But he says it is not clear whether the reinstatement of the sacked judges will also be included.

Mr Musharraf has said he will lift emergency rule on 16 December.

'Surprising' ban

Mr Sharif returned from exile last month. He was overthrown in a 1999 military coup led by Mr Musharraf, the then head of the army.

He received the news earlier on Monday that the Election Commission had barred him from standing in the elections, upholding a complaint from a rival candidate and citing criminal convictions against him.

Mr Sharif said he found the decision "very surprising" and would tell other opposition parties they should join him in opposing the vote.

"We should now be fighting the dictatorship with more vigour and more determination," he said.

Mr Sharif has until Friday to appeal against the ban.

His brother, Shahbaz, has already been banned from the January elections. He had also applied to stand for a Lahore constituency.

Benazir Bhutto calls for a fair election

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