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Pakistani Party Forms New Alliance

December 4, 2000

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ A new opposition alliance said Monday they would boycott upcoming local elections and stage protests for an immediate end to military rule in Pakistan.

``We demand the military government lift its ban on political activity,″ said Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, head of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy.

The alliance, formed Sunday, represents 18 of the country’s discredited and disgraced political parties, including those of two ousted prime ministers and one-time archrivals, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif, convicted of hijacking and kidnapping, is serving a life jail term and faces further corruption charges. Bhutto, who divides her time between Britain and the United Arab Emirates, was convicted in absentia of corruption and sentenced to five years in jail when Sharif was in power.

The other parties include ethnic and nationalist groups and small religious organizations, which have a history of sharp political and ideological differences.

``We have put behind our differences for democracy,″ Khan said Sunday in demanding an immediate transfer of power to a caretaker government. ``Today our priority is to return the country to democracy.″

Local elections for district and municipal councils will begin later this month and last for several months. Khan said the alliance rejected the elections because political parties are not allowed to participate. All candidates must run as independents.

The government also bans all public meetings, but Khan said his alliance would hold peaceful demonstrations.

In October 1999, the army threw out Sharif’s government in a bloodless coup on charges of corruption and misrule. Gen. Pervez Musharraf has promised elections before the end of 2002.

Many political parties, including some in the alliance, had welcomed the military takeover, but now criticize the government’s anti-corruption drive as unjust and draconian.

About 35,000 lawyers held a one-day strike on Monday to demand an immediate return to democracy. Courts throughout the country were closed.

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