Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says the state of his nation's political affairs is "alarming."

In an interview with VOA Sunday, the opposition leader said many people have lost faith in the political system because President Pervez Musharraf instituted a temporary state of emergency last year.

Mr. Sharif said the government in Islamabad has derailed the legal system, ignored the constitution and shaken people's confidence in government.

In separate news Sunday, Pakistani security forces say they have retaken control of a key highway tunnel in the country's Northwest Frontier Province, killing at least 24 militants who had blocked the tunnel since Friday.

The Japanese-built Kohat tunnel is on the Indus Highway the main road linking the provincial capital Peshawar to the tribal areas along the Afghan border. Fighting broke out after militants had attacked army trucks loaded with ammunition.

The clashes near the town of Dara Adam Khel, near the city of Peshawar are part of a series of battles with radical Islamic fighters who are trying to extend their reach within Pakistan's rugged northwest.

Also Sunday, Pakistani forces say they exchanged fire with militants in the tribal region of South Waziristan. Troops are searching for al-Qaida linked militant leader Baitullah Mehsud, who the government blames for planning the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.