Lahore, Dec 3: Former premier Nawaz Sharif has decided in principle to contest the elections, but would make a formal announcement only after finalising modalities with Pakistan People"s Party chief Benazir Bhutto in a crucial meeting that is likely to be held on Monday.
Close family circles have confided that the Sharif brothers remained huddled with aides and consultants, party loyalists and friends, to reach the decision late last night after intensive discussions.
The Sharif brothers were fully convinced that the field should not be left open and they should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their former arch political rival Bhutto to give tough time to the forces that remained in power for five long years, sources said.
The main argument that made Nawaz reach the decision is said to be the favourable public sentiment which they could transform into people"s mandate.
"It is time for people to decide for them rather than give them a call to come out in the streets. It is they who will choose their next rulers but if we find the dice loaded against us, if the election is engineered or rigged, we will be more justified to resort to people in their interest," sources quoted Nawaz, as saying.
Sources said that there was only one hitch left. "How the PPP would like to get along with the PML-N?"
Nawaz will have a one-to-one meeting with Bhutto and both the leaders are likely to reach a mutually acceptable formula, they added.
PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has already made the Sharif brothers an offer to reunite.
He has not spelled out the terms of a merger, but could offer both the brothers offices "respectable to their stature", hinting like party leadership to Nawaz and the office of the Chief Ministerof Punjab to Shahbaz Sharif, sources close to PML-Q chief said.
In return, the Chaudhrys expect the Sharif brothers to back Pervaiz Elahi as their candidate for the office of the Prime Minister.
The offers were conveyed to the Sharif brothers through indirect channels, but the Sharif brothers remained tight-lipped.
"Sharif holds the trump card," said a political pundit who has been close to both the leaders in Lahore, which may also mean that whichever way they go, they will win the house in transparent general election.
Nawaz"s meeting with Bhutto is being considered to be "the turning point to launch the political battle", The News quoted sources, as saying.