JACKI LYDEN, host:
Pervez Musharraf came to power in 1999 when he led a military coup against, then, Prime Minister Nawaz Shrif. Sharif was forced into exile and now lives in Saudi Arabia. He tried to return to his homeland in September but was expelled after just few hours.
I spoke with Nawaz Sharif earlier today by phone from Jeddah. Please excuse the occasional tones you'll hear in the phone line. I asked what the state of emergency will mean for Pakistan.
Mr. NAWAZ SHARIF (Former Pakistan Prime Minister): Well, I think there's (unintelligible) mourning here in Pakistan. I think this is a very tragic event, which have taken place yesterday. And under the garb of emergency, it is virtually martial law. So I think, it's a (unintelligible) great step backward to democracy in Pakistan.
LYDEN: General Musharraf's gave, as a reason for emergency rule, the fact that the Supreme Court has released 61 suspected terrorists. Isn't this a concern?
Mr. SHARIF: No, no, no. Actually, you see, he was very angry with the Supreme Court judges who reinstated the chief justice when he was thrown out by Mr. Musharraf six months ago. So if in effect, he staged a coup against the Supreme Court.
LYDEN: Chief Justice Chaudhry, you're referring to.
Mr. SHARIF: And he was very unhappy with the reinstatement of the Supreme Court's chief justice. And I think it was out of anger and vengeance that he's taken this action against them.
LYDEN: Wasn't there, however, a concern that perhaps the court might be too lenient on counterterrorism?
Mr. SHARIF: This has nothing do to with terrorism or extremism or radicalism. No, no, not at all. That thing is going on very far away from Islamabad or the Supreme Court of Pakistan. So if he says that, I think he's telling lies to the world.
LYDEN: Should the United States cut off financial aids? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that we're reviewing it.
Mr. SHARIF: Well, that would not serve the purpose. I think United States have to put its foot down. If United States is sincere with its wishes to have democracy thriving in Pakistan, then it has to take a very strong stand against these actions of Mr. Musharraf. Otherwise, if you (unintelligible) reaction from the United States is very disturbing for every Pakistani to me.
LYDEN: So you think that that is a fairly tepid response?
Mr. SHARIF: I think what the United States need to say or condemn this action in very strong words. And I must say that it has to be worst(ph). That is more important. Before all the (unintelligible) in Pakistan have drawing their strength mostly from United States of America. This is what the average Pakistani view today.
LYDEN: So you want the United States to tell him in clear, declarative terms to reverse the actions of Saturday.
Mr. SHARIF: (Unintelligible), absolutely.
LYDEN: Do you have any plans to try to return again to Pakistan?
Mr. SHARIF: Certainly. Certainly. I'm now talking to the authorities here. And I wish to go back to Pakistan and travel for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law.
LYDEN: Are you worried that this struggle could take a very violent turn, say, between your supporters…
Mr. SHARIF: I'm very worried. I think things would never - at such a position as there today, I think we are at the brink of disaster.
LYDEN: The brink of disaster, you say?
Mr. SHARIF: One man is holding the whole nation hostage. You see, this is something which is very serious, very bad.
LYDEN: Nawaz Sharif served as prime minister of Pakistan from 1990-1993 and from 1997 until he was deposed in 1999. He spoke to us from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Thanks very much for joining us.
Mr. SHARIF: Thank you. Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.