Pakistan's ousted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia, has withdrawn from the country's parliamentary elections set for October 10. Election officials in Pakistan gave Mr. Sharif approval on Thursday to contest the elections. But in a statement issued Saturday, the former Pakistani prime minister says he is withdrawing from the parliamentary polls to protest what he calls "the unethical and unconstitutional measures" of the military government.
A senior leader of his Pakistan Muslim League, Raja Zafarul Haq, read the statement to a news conference in Islamabad.
He said Mr. Sharif also withdrew to express support for another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto's efforts to contest the elections in October. On Friday, local election authorities in the southern province of Sindh rejected nomination papers for Ms. Bhutto to run in the elections, saying she is a convicted offender.
President General Pervez Musharraf recently enacted new laws that bar those convicted of crimes from seeking office.
Ms. Bhutto, who lives in self-imposed exile in London, has been sentenced in absentia to three years in jail for failing to appear in court to answer corruption charges. She denies the allegations, which are related to her time as prime minister in the early 1990s.
The announcement of Mr. Sharif's withdrawal came shortly after the military government of President Musharraf said it would challenge the acceptance of Mr. Sharif's nomination by election officials.
President Musharraf has repeatedly said that both Mr. Sharif and Ms. Bhutto will be arrested if they try to return to Pakistan.
Mr. Sharif was tried and convicted of hijacking and corruption, after being overthrown by President Musharraf in a bloodless coup in October 1999. The military leader says Mr. Sharif and his family made a promise to stay out of politics for 10 years when they were exiled to Saudi Arabia.