Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Bhutto party woos Islamists to build powerful anti-Musharraf front

Bhutto party woos Islamists to build powerful anti-Musharraf front

Opponents of President Pervez Musharraf are wooing Islamist politicians to bolster their drive to curb the power of the U.S. allied leader in the wake of his party's defeat in recent elections.
The negotiations highlight the extent of Musharraf's political isolation following the Feb. 18 vote that was widely seen as a repudiation of the former general's increasingly authoritarian eight-year rule.
"We believe that the problems are so big that as far as possible we should take along all the political forces," Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's party, told The Associated Press Friday.
Bhutto's widower and political successor, Asif Ali Zardari, warmly embraced Fazlur Rehman, the bearded leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of Islamist parties, when they met in the capital, Islamabad, late Thursday.
MMA spokesman Abdul Jalil Jan said the alliance wanted commitments on "Islamization" from a new coalition government. He did not detail the commitments.
Babar said the two sides would meet again Friday to discuss including the MMA in a broad "government of national consensus."
Jan said MMA lawmakers would vote to strip Musharraf of the right to dissolve parliament and for the abolition of the National Security Council, a body that Musharraf established after his 1999 coup to give the army a formal say in the running of the country.
"We will support them on these issues even if we don't join the government," Jan said.
Both the MMA and the main pro-Musharraf group were thrashed in the elections. Voters turned to the moderate parties of Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, raising hopes in the West of a firm push against Islamic extremism.
Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, which had vowed to root out extremism before she was killed in a gun and suicide-bomb attack on Dec. 27, seems to have little in common with the Islamists beyond a wish to tame Musharraf.
Musharraf was re-elected president in October by a parliament packed with his supporters. Opponents are calling loudly for the former military strongman to resign, saying he has trampled on democracy, the judiciary and the media since taking power in a 1999 coup against Sharif.
But Musharraf retains some U.S. support for his record in combating the Taliban and al-Qaida along the border with Afghanistan and has shown no willingness to step down, raising the prospect of a showdown with the next government.
The Pakistan People's Party won 87 seats in the recent elections. Together with Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party and other allies, they have 171 of the 272 seats in the National Assembly and hope to form a government after parliament convenes next month.
The 10 seats won by the MMA or affiliated independents would take it close to the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution or even impeach Musharraf. A two-thirds majority is also needed in the 100-member Senate, the upper house.
Pro-Musharraf parties have only a slender majority in the Senate after six senators announced this week that they would ignore the party line in order to promote democratic reform.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a Pakistan People's Party leader, said his party would move cautiously toward that goal to try to prevent fresh turmoil.
"Relations with the presidency is a challenge because as you know the PPP has been talking about a balance of power between the parliament and the presidency," Qureshi told Dawn News television. "One has to tread carefully ... we do not want confrontation."
The MMA rose to prominence after the 2002 elections, when religious parties entered the government in both of the provinces bordering Afghanistan, sparking concern about the increasing influence of fundamentalist mullahs in running nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Musharraf's government has accused the MMA of vetoing tough action against Islamic militants.
But the party cooperated with the former general in the past. It voted for constitutional amendments that rubber-stamped Musharraf's actions after the 1999 coup and allowed him to serve as both president and army chief until he retired from the military last November.


Updated : 2021-05-06 13:02 GMT+08:00