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Allies back Musharraf as he prepares to face hostile Parliament

Allies back Musharraf as he prepares to face hostile Parliament

President Pervez Musharraf's allies rallied around him Thursday, challenging the victors in Pakistan's elections to oust him as he prepares to face a hostile parliament.
"He has been elected president for five years. He will remain president for five years," said Pervez Elahi, a close confidant of Musharraf, who has come under increasing pressure from opponents to step down.
Leading the charge against the Musharraf _ a former army general who cracked down on the opposition, judiciary and media last year _ are the parties of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
The two parties finished first and second in the Feb. 18 parliamentary election. The Pakistan Muslim League-Q, a party loyal to Musharraf, lost heavily.
Elahi, who would have been the PML-Q's prime minister had the party won, said Musharraf would not resign.
"There is no such proposal. Neither is he considering it," Elahi told reporters.
Musharraf's stand has raised the prospect of a new political crisis that could spoil Pakistan's return to democracy after eight years of military rule.
The U.S. has continued to back Musharraf because of his sustained support for Washington's war on Taliban and al-Qaida militants operating in rugged parts of Pakistan near the Afghan border. The government blamed an al-Qaida-linked militant commander for Bhutto's Dec. 27 assassination.
On Wednesday, the parties of Bhutto and Sharif urged Musharraf to quickly convene the National Assembly, the lower house of the country's parliament, so the parties can form a government.
Sharif said the prospective coalition partners have 171 seats out of the 272 in the National Assembly and would soon secure the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution or impeach Musharraf.
In November, Musharraf declared a state of emergency and purged the Supreme Court before it could rule on the disputed legality of his re-election as president a month earlier.
Pro-Musharraf parties have retained a slender majority in the 100-seat Senate, the upper house. But six senators announced this week they were breaking away from the former ruling bloc.
Musharraf suffered another blow when PML-Q general secretary Mushahid Hussain on Wednesday said he would support a move to strip the president of the power to dissolve Pakistan's parliament.
Elahi and party spokesman Tariq Azim said Thursday, however, Hussain was not speaking for the party.
Musharraf was obliged to use his emergency powers "every time there is any need for it," Azim told The Associated Press. "The party still supports him. He is the stabilizing factor for the country."
He challenged Bhutto's and Sharif's parties to try to amend the constitution to take away Musharraf's power.
"If they do get two-thirds majority it is up to them to bring in any amendment, but they don't have the majority yet," he said. "There are many ifs and buts."