Stage Set for Unrest Ahead of Pakistan's Elections

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Former Prime Minister Narwaz Sharif tried to return to Pakistan this week, but it turned into a fleeting visit, rather than a return home.

Mr. Sharif, who was turned out by Gen. Pervez Musharraf in a 1999 coup, was detained at Islamabad's airport just long enough to get a cup of tea, before he was charged with corruption and sent back to Saudi Arabia.

The Pakistani Supreme Court had ruled that Mr. Sharif was entitled to return from exile. The stage is set for a period of political rivalry and unrest in a country that the United States depends on in its fight against terrorism.

Husain Haqqani is director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University and Pakistan's former ambassador to Sri Lanka. He has served as an adviser to Sharif and to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who has apparently reached an agreement with President Musharraf that will keep her from also being deported when she returns from exile next month.

Pakistan is expected to hold its presidential election in October.

Haggani calls Pakistan's decision not to allow Sharif to stay evidence that the military government fears free and fair elections.

"The problem is very simple," he says. "The election, if it is free and fair and everyone is on the ballot, will basically show how Pakistani civilians no longer like the idea of the country being run by the military. And that is something that Gen. Musharraf certainly does not want, and the military is also reluctant to accept."

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