Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: Former Prime Minister and Pakistan Muslim league (N) leader Nawaz Sharif raised the political temperature a couple of notches on Friday evening with a provocative speech at a public rally in Lahore, calling for a rebellion on the streets against the present government.

Just as it was being thought that reconciliation efforts between the Sharifs and President Zardari and his Pakistan People’s Party may lead to positive results, the PML(N) leader indicated at a massive rally on Lahore’s Mall Road that he was in no mood to compromise.

Mr. Sharif said his party would go flat-out in its support to a “long march” by lawyers for the restoration of the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary. The rally is to start out from Lahore on March 12 and culminate in an indefinite dharna on March 16 near the parliament buildings in the capital.

“Prepare for a rebellion,” Mr. Sharif told supporters, attacking President Zardari for going back on his word on the restoration of the judiciary. “What kind of President is this who makes a promise and later says it was only a promise, not the Hadith?” he said.

Mr. Sharif and his brother Shahbaz, were last week disqualified by the Supreme Court from holding or contesting for any elected office. The PPP-appointed Punjab Governor immediately dismissed the Shabaz Sharif-led provincial government. Since then, the Sharifs have led an open campaign against Mr. Zardari.

The minimum condition that the Sharifs have demanded for a reconciliation is that Governor’s rule in Punjab province must go.

After having gone for broke in the province by dismissing the PML(N) government, President Zardari appears to be backtracking as the PPP still does not have the required numbers to form the government.