I'll receive Benazir at Lahore airport: Sharif
Apr 13, 2007 - 5:05:37 PM

Lahore, April 13 - Former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif has said he would return home to contest the general elections due this year before his rival-turned-ally Benazir Bhutto arrives and receive her at the Lahore airport.

Indicating a measure of distrust for her, despite her assurances, he told the private Geo TV: 'I hope Ms Bhutto will not strike a deal with Musharraf.'

Sharif, who is in exile in the United Arab Emirates for the last eight years, said he would welcome Bhutto at Lahore airport and have lunch with her, Daily Times reported Friday.

He expressed deep respects for Benazir Bhutto for conveying her viewpoint in a very straightforward manner.

Both exiled former prime ministers have announced their intention to return home and face likely detention on landing.

Sharif has been known to be plotting the details of his return at an airport where his Pakistan Peoples Party - could gather enough people to put pressure on the government.

Landing at the airport to a tumultuous welcome would push the government on the defensive. Benazir Bhutto did that in 1988.

While Musharraf has said that Bhutto could be arrested on her return, Sharif's return is ruled out on the ground that he had struck a deal, brokered by the Saudi royalty that he would not return home for 10 years, till 2009. Sharif denies such a deal.

Sharif has been wary of Bhutto's contacts with the Musharraf regime and has gone public about it. Bhutto on her part acknowledged last week that she had been in contact since 2002, but insists that the talks were 'routine'.

Reacting to reports that Bhutto could strike a 'deal' with Musharraf, should the latter shed the Army Chief's post, Sharif said he would not accept Musharraf, who had ousted him in 1999, 'whether in or without uniform'.

He denied having any personal clash with Musharraf, saying that 'toppling an elected government was not personal but a national issue'.

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