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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Sharif denies party rift
Pervez Musharraf with Fazul Rehman
General Musharraf: Continuing a dialogue with politicians
By Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad

The ousted Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has said that his party colleagues did not consult him before they held a meeting with the Pakistani military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.

On Monday, the general met with two senior members of the Pakistani Muslim League (PML).


Sharif supporters
Support for Sharif is divided
Government officials said it was part of the process of the military opening a dialogue with what they describe as good clean civilian politicians.

Mr Sharif spoke to reporters during a break in proceedings during a corruption trial being held in Attock Fort, near Islamabad.

He denied suggestions that his party is split, but conceded that he had not been consulted by two senior party colleagues who met General Musharraf.

Divisions

One of those leaders, Mian Azhar, has made no secret of his opposition to Nawaz Sharif.

The other, Raja Zaffar ul Haq, has steered a more moderate line, but by attending the meeting with the general, has clearly indicated that he no longer considers it necessary to follow Mr Sharif's leadership.

Ever since the coup, it has been clear that the Muslim League is affected by internal division.


Kulsoom Sharif
Kulsoom leads the Muslim League group loyal to Sharif
Some party members, led by Mr Sharif's wife, Kulsoom, have remained entirely loyal to their leader.

Others have taken a middle course.

They have not called for Mr Sharif to be overthrown but, at the same time, have pursued a policy of non-confrontation with the army.

The third group is openly calling for a new leader to replace Mr Sharif.

The military meanwhile are continuing their dialogue with politicians.

A former minister from the Pakistan People's Party has now met the general.

Unlike his Muslim League counterparts, he did so only after getting clearance from his party leader, Benazir Bhutto.

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See also:

03 Jul 00 | South Asia
Musharraf meets Sharif party leader
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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