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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Musharraf meets Sharif party leader
Drinking lassi in Lahore
General Musharraf has pledged to clean up Pakistan
By Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad

Pakistan's military leader General Pervez Musharraf has met a senior politician from the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), the party led by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Reports indicate the meeting between the PML's Raja Zaffar ul Haq and General Musharraf lasted about two hours.

It is the first time since the October 1999 military coup that General Musharraf has met one of those he removed from power.

Clean politicians

The military regime has been saying for some weeks now that it did plan to talk to what was described as good, clean politicians.

When Nawaz Sharif was prime minister, Mr Haq was the government's leader in the senate and one of the most experienced ministers in the administration.

Like other ousted ministers, Mr Haq has been careful not to issue critical statements about the military.

Both Nawaz Sharif, who is now in prison, and his wife Kulsoom, have been calling for stronger protests about military rule.

But Raja Zaffar ul Haq and his colleagues have opted for a policy of non-confrontation.

Divisions within PML

It seems the military are now trying to exploit that division within the Muslim League.

Government officials are trying to play down the significance of the meeting.

They say they had always made clear their plans to open a dialogue with some politicians.

These officials want the meeting to be seen as part of a process of consultation aimed at restoring democratic structures in the country.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has said that the military should hand back power to civilians within three years.

It is not yet known exactly what the two men discussed, but it is likely they did talk about the eventual restoration of democracy.

The military say that when they do hand back power, they want to ensure that no corrupt politicians are in the next government.

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See also:

06 Apr 00 | South Asia
Muted response from Sharif's party
20 Oct 99 | South Asia
Sharif's party in disarray
14 Oct 99 | South Asia
Mixed signals from Sharif's party
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