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Winning parties press Musharraf to convene hostile new Parliament

Winning parties press Musharraf to convene hostile new Parliament

The winners of Pakistan's election put on a show of strength Wednesday against President Pervez Musharraf, assembling 171 lawmakers and pressing the U.S.-allied leader to convene what promises to be a hostile new Parliament.
The party of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, trounced Musharraf's allies in a Feb. 18 parliamentary ballot supposed to restore democracy after eight years of military rule.
But the result has set the stage for a confrontation with the former army strongman that could distract Islamabad from its efforts to fight spreading Islamic extremism.
On Wednesday, newly elected lawmakers from the two winning parties, plus those of a smaller group that triumphed in the insurgency-plagued northwest, met over lunch at a swanky hotel in the capital.
Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower and the co-chairman of her Pakistan People's Party, invoked her Dec. 27 assassination to urge the parliamentarians to restore democracy and cut down Pakistan's military-dominated establishment.
"This is a window of opportunity," Zardari said. "The homage to my 'shaheed' (martyred) wife would be that we unite together, we take democracy, we take power for Parliament and once and for all finish the establishment."
Sharif urged Musharraf to quickly convene Parliament so that the parties can begin the "gigantic task" of restoring the country's much-amended constitution.
"We are not prepared to wait for a single more day," Sharif said. "We are ready for a transition."
The three parties meeting Wednesday are expected to form a coalition government as early as next month with Makhdoom Amin Fahim, a longtime Bhutto lieutenant, as prime minister.
The new Parliament could press hard for the resignation of Musharraf, whose role in Washington's war against terrorism and increasingly authoritarian rule have made him deeply unpopular.
The prospective coalition partners say they have 171 seats out of 272 in the National Assembly, but lack the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution and trim Musharraf's sweeping powers, which include the right to dissolve Parliament. Musharraf's allies still have a majority in the 100-seat Senate.
The new leaders are vowing to restore the independence of the Supreme Court. Musharraf declared a state of emergency and purged the court in November before it could rule on the disputed legality of his re-election as president a month earlier.
Sharif is calling for the immediate restoration of the judges in the hope that it will prompt Musharraf to quit. The judges include Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who has been under house arrest for nearly four months.
"This person (Musharraf) has played havoc with the institutions of Pakistan," Sharif said Wednesday.
However, the People's Party has left open whether the justices will return to their posts _ a position that has prompted speculation that it will compromise with Musharraf.
Earlier Wednesday, the judges appointed to the Supreme Court under the emergency threw out three challenges to a corruption amnesty that allowed Bhutto and Zardari to return to Pakistan from exile.
The amnesty, promulgated by Musharraf last year under a plan to restore democratic rule, quashed corruption charges dating from the 1980s and 1990s, when Bhutto and Sharif each served twice as prime minister.


Updated : 2021-04-15 15:29 GMT+08:00