- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2000

LAHORE, Pakistan Kulsoom Sharif, the wife of Pakistan's ousted prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is accusing the military government of keeping her husband in a small, dirty room without any window and in utter darkness all night.
"My husband's conditions are not very good," Mrs. Sharif said in an interview.
"After 10 p.m., there is no light and no outside light; he is all alone. But he is in very high spirits. He is a brave man. So brave.
"He is in a small, dirty room with no window and a small electric bulb that is not sufficient," Mrs. Sharif said Monday.
Mrs. Sharif visits her husband twice a week in the ancient Attock Fort where he is serving two life sentences. On Saturday, he received an additional sentence of 14 years at hard labor over his undeclared ownership of a helicopter.
He was initially convicted of trying to block the landing in October of a plane bearing army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf a move that was thwarted and led to the army taking power.
Prosecutor General Farouk Adam Khan denied the accusations of Mrs. Sharif, noting that she was not allowed to visit her husband in his room and had never seen it.
"He's got a well-lit room with an attached modern bathroom," the prosecutor said in an interview. "He can lie on his bed and see outside as the world goes past. He also has a television. And there are two basketball courts for him to use."
While Mrs. Sharif calls her husband brave for enduring jail without losing his spirit, some say it is his wife who is brave.
She is about the only political figure in Pakistan who dares to speak out against the army's rule. While her husband's colleagues from the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) remain silent, she has led protest marches around the country.
She recently prevailed in a comic-opera standoff when officers blocked her car en route to a meeting.
She refused to get out of the car and the officers were unable to unlock the doors. Unwilling to smash it open, the officers towed the car to a police station where it sat for 10 hours, engine and air conditioner running.
Thwarted, the officers finally towed the car again with Mrs. Sharif still inside back to her home.
In taking up the mantle of her deposed husband, Mrs. Sharif follows in the footsteps of other South Asian women who took power after their husbands or fathers died or left power.
These include Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto; former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi in India; Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga; Bangladesh's current and previous prime ministers, Sheik Hasina and Khaleda Zia.
Sitting in her home, the soft-spoken but decisive Mrs. Sharif admitted she had little interest in politics, even in the university where she earned a graduate degree in Urdu language studies.
"I was never interested in politics until Sharif was arrested," she said. "But no male member of my family dared take part in politics [after the coup], so the whole burden is on my shoulders.
"I don't want to become the leader of Pakistan. I want to remain a housewife. But if circumstances are like this, I have to struggle and take part in politics. If democracy comes, then I won't take part in politics."
In addition to having a husband in jail, Mrs. Sharif said her son, Hussein, is being held without charges and has been forced to remain in a freezing cell without adequate clothing.
Nawaz Sharif's two brothers are also in jail.
"General Musharraf is a vindictive man," she said. "It's a personal vendetta.
Mr. Sharif still faces several more trials in which he is accused of responsibility for corporate and bank losses and of spending $5 million on a lavish home while he reported a small income, according to the prosecutor.

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