Pakistan Rejects Appeal for Sharif Candidacy

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lost his appeal against the rejection of his nomination for next month's parliamentary elections, an official said Tuesday, eliminating one of Pakistan's key opposition leaders from the crucial vote.

Pakistan's Election Commission rejected Sharif's appeal Monday, commission spokesman Kanwar Dilshad said. The chief election commissioner also rejected a separate appeal by Sharif's politician bother, Shahbaz Sharif, against rejection of his nomination for the Jan. 8 vote, Dilshad said.

Dilshad declined to give details, confirming only a report in the Urdu-language Jang daily Tuesday that the Sharifs were out of the elections.

Sharif's party initially called for a boycott of the vote but decided against it after failing to get support from other opposition groups for a united action.

Sharif has been demanding that President Pervez Musharraf restore the Supreme Court judges he sacked during a 42-day state of emergency.

Addressing thousands of supporters during an election campaign stop in Hyderabad, Bhutto on Monday sharply criticized the rule of Musharraf as a "dark era of dictatorship." She warned that a rigged vote could push the country into "anarchy."

"If the militancy spreads and if, God forbid, the country disintegrates, it would become another Afghanistan," Bhutto said.