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Pakistan coalition may woo Musharraf allies

Pakistan coalition may woo Musharraf allies
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First Published: Sun, Feb 24 2008. 03 40 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Feb 24 2008. 03 40 PM IST
Islamabad: The party of Pakistan’s slain former premier Benazir Bhutto said Sunday it may woo President Pervez Musharraf’s allies to join a coalition government that could drive the former general from power.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which won the most seats in last week’s election and has teamed up with the party of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, say they are considering working with the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
If a PPP-led coalition manages to muster a two-thirds majority in parliament, it could seek to remove Musharraf, either by impeaching him or having his election as president last year declared illegal.
PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP that his party was in talks with the pro-Musharraf MQM, which participated in government from 2002 to 2007 and enjoys large support in southern Sindh province, a traditional PPP stronghold.
“The Pakistan People’s Party wants to take all political forces along to form the government and is discussing the possibility of cooperating with the MQM,” Babar said.
“Consultations are going on within the party and there are different opinions about whether to cooperate with MQM or not, but nothing has been finalised,” Babar said.
He refused to reveal the coalition’s plans for Musharraf, who has become intensely unpopular in Pakistan as basic commodity prices soar and deadly attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels escalate.
The elections were overshadowed by the death of PPP leader Bhutto, who was killed in a suicide attack in December that the government has pinned on an Al-Qaeda-linked warlord based in Pakistan’s troubled tribal region.
Cries of “Go, Musharraf, Go!” have been ringing out on the streets of Pakistan since his allies in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) took a drubbing in the elections.
“You cannot impeach him right now because you don’t have two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and the Senate. Since we cannot do it now, there is no need to say anything about it,” Babar said.
Musharraf is seen in Washington as a bulwark against terrorism, and officials in the administration of US President George W. Bush say they hope to keep working with the president.
Sharif, however, has widely criticised US support for Musharraf, and his party’s spokesman Siddique-ul Farooq told AFP on Sunday that Washington was urging the PPP not to remove Musharraf.
“There is a lot of back-channel diplomatic pressure on the PPP to join hands with the PML-Q as the Bush administration does not want Musharraf’s ouster,” he said.
“But the people of Pakistan will never forgive any deviation of their verdict now,” he added.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), which finished a close second to the PPP in the polls, has said their priority is to restore 63 top judges, including chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, sacked by Musharraf under the powers of emergency rule last year.
If Chaudhry, who remains under house arrest, gets his job back, he could overturn Musharraf’s November presidential election victory and remove him from office.
Musharraf and the PML-Q have vowed not to try and upend the democratically-elected government, but the embattled president, who seized power in a coup in 1999, has refused to step down.
Currently the PPP has cobbled together a coalition with the PML-N and the Awami National Party (ANP), a small ethnic Pashtun secular grouping which defeated hardline Islamic parties in the country’s insurgency-hit northwest.
The PPP and PML-N have ruled out joining forces with the PML-Q.
They are currently weighing their choice for prime minister, with PPP loyalist Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the party’s respected vice president, widely expected to be nominated.
Party officials said Saturday that they would likely not officially name him as their candidate until parliament convenes in early March.
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First Published: Sun, Feb 24 2008. 03 40 PM IST
More Topics: Pakistan | Politics | PPP | MQM | Nawaz Sharif |