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Musharraf foes unite on demands

To take part in voting, the parties want an end to emergency rule and justices' release.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's major opposition parties joined forces yesterday in drawing up a list of demands for President Pervez Musharraf to meet if he wants to avoid a threatened boycott of next month's elections.

As conditions for their participation in parliamentary elections, the parties are demanding the end of emergency rule and the release of all former Supreme Court judges.

The move raises the stakes for Musharraf's government, as part of efforts that Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, likened to a war to "save Pakistan from further destruction." Sharif spent the day campaigning even though his candidacy for the Jan. 8 balloting was struck down.

"My resolve to save Pakistan is still high and, God willing, we will win this war against Musharraf," Sharif said as he met with supporters at several stops in the mountainous north.

Representatives of Sharif's faction and of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's party - foes drawn together to oppose Musharraf - set up a joint committee to draw up the list of demands and set a deadline for compliance.

"We all were in agreement that under the prevailing, fraudulent system, the forthcoming elections would be massively rigged unless the opposition takes concrete steps," said Ahsan Iqbal, one of Sharif's nominees on the committee.

This week's talks between Sharif and Bhutto are their first since they returned from exile.

Since he declared emergency rule Nov. 3, Musharraf has filled the Supreme Court with loyalists, which quickly approved his continued rule, and jailed hundreds of human-rights workers, civic activists and lawyers.

Most have since been released, and Musharraf has promised to lift the emergency Dec. 16. But repression continues.

Police clashed briefly with about 250 people in a protest march in the capital, Islamabad. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.

In Peshawar, a suicide bomber, apparently trying to attack a military post, blew herself up near a Christian school, officials said. The attack was believed to be Pakistan's first case of a suicide attack by a woman. There were no other casualties.

Also yesterday, Sharif's politician brother faced possible arrest over murder charges dating to 1998. An antiterror court issued contempt notices to two police officers for not arresting Shahbaz Sharif for allegedly ordering security forces to kill suspected criminals in a shoot-out when he was chief minister of Punjab province, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.