Islamabad, Dec 11: Amid hectic political activity ahead of the January 8 parliamentary polls in Pakistan, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has refused to accede to calls for poll boycott by the country's religious right and launched his election campaign.
Another former premier Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party has already declared it would contest elections while a clear rift has emerged in the six-party Islamic alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) on the issue as one of its components, the pro-Taliban Jamiatul Ulema-e-Islam of Maulana Fazalur Rehman has announced to participate in the polls.
Maulana Rehman's stand has been in sharp contrast to MMA chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad's position, who has declared to boycott the election.
In a related development, the All Parties Democratic Movement, a grouping of top political, religious and nationalist parties, removed Nawaz Sharif as its convener and appointed Mehmud Khan Achakzai, a nationalist leader in his place after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz decision to participate in the polls.
Crickerter-turned politician Imran Khan, whose Tehrik-e-Insaf is also a member of the APDM, said only those parties favouring election boycott could go along with the alliance.
''We cannot leave the field open for Pervez Musharraf's cronies and that is why the PML-N has decided to participate in the upcoming elections,'' Mr Sharif said in Faisalabad.
He said the boycott by only one party has no meaning as Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Benazir Bhutto have already announced to take part in the poll process.
He said Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other respected judges were put under house arrest by President Pervez Musharraf.
''Some allowed Musharraf to be an 'undemocratic and unconstitutional' President of the country,'' he said referring to judges who took fresh oath of allegiance under the Provincial Constitutional Order.
''January 8, 2008 is not a day of elections but it is a Referendum Day. This referendum will be between the anti-country, anti-masses people and the people who love the country,'' The Nation quoted him as saying.
The PML-N leader defended his decision to drop a threatened boycott of elections in January, saying that any Opposition move to shun the polls had to be unanimous because split decision on boycott would be disastrous.
''If any boycott is to take place it must be unanimous, any partial boycott would be disastrous for the Opposition. We are were trying hard to get Benazir Bhutto and Maulana Fazlur Rehman on board,'' he told a private television channel in his first comments since his party announced its participation in the polls on Sunday.