Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif stepped up his attack on President Pervez Musharraf yesterday, suggesting he could be hanged in a speech to thousands of protesters.
Sharif said the president must be held accountable for abrogating the Constitution and the 1999 coup, when then-army chief Musharraf ousted Sharif.
Sharif was allowed back from exile late last year as staunch US ally Musharraf’s power was ebbing following a clash with the judiciary. The two-time prime minister’s party came second in a February election.
“We asked you to quit with honor after the election but you didn’t,” Sharif said in a speech to up to 15,000 protesters outside parliament, referring to Musharraf.
“Now people have given a new judgment for you ... they want you to be held accountable,” he said, as the crowd shouted: “Hang Musharraf.”
Sharif had previously called for Musharraf to be tried for treason, for tearing up the Constitution and his coup.
“Is hanging only for politicians?” asked Sharif, referring to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, hanged by a military dictator in 1979. “These blood-sucking dictators must be held accountable.”
Musharraf’s popularity dived after he dismissed Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry last year, sparking months of turmoil that raised concern for the prospects of the nuclear-armed country on the front line of the US-led campaign against terrorism.
Sharif backs a campaign by lawyers to have Chaudhry and other judges reinstated and he was speaking at a rally outside parliament marking the climax of a cross-country motorcade protest by lawyers and activists.
Tens of thousands of protesters swarmed into the capital on Friday for the raucous rally led by lawyers.
After about 30 hours on the road, senior lawyers, joined by politicians, took to a stage atop shipping containers a few hundred meters from Pakistan’s floodlit parliament early yesterday.
People had massed at towns along the Grand Trunk Road as the “Long March” crawled toward Islamabad on a hot, humid day, with protesters shouting: “Go, Musharraf, go!”
Police estimated 40,000 joined the procession at its height.
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