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Monday, March 10, 2008

Musharraf meets aides after Pakistan coalition pact

ISLAMABAD, March 10 (AFP): President Pervez Musharraf huddled with key aides on Monday after Pakistan's main opposition parties agreed to form a coalition and reinstate the judges he sacked last year, officials said. Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif signed a coalition pact on Sunday following last month's general elections in which they trounced Musharraf's allies.In a major blow to Musharraf, a key US ally in the "war on terror", they also agreed to bring back, within the first 30 days of the new parliament, the judges ousted by the president during emergency rule last November. The dismissed judges, including chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Musharraf's arch-foe, could take up legal challenges to Musharraf's re-election as president in October if they are restored.Government officials said Musharraf was "meeting legal aides" at his office in the garrison city of Rawalpindi but did not give details on what was discussed. Private television channels said it was a "strategy meeting" including legal and constitutional advisers. Musharraf has come under pressure from Sharif and supporters of the sacked judges to step down following the drubbing of his political backers in the February 18 parliamentary polls. Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999 but his grip on power weakened last year when he stepped down as army chief under intense domestic and international pressure.His political troubles began almost exactly a year ago when he first tried to oust chief justice Chaudhry, citing alleged misconduct by the judge. Chaudhry fought back but was finally removed under emergency rule. The fate of the judges was one of the main sticking points between Zardari, the de facto leader of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, which won the most seats in the election, and Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N.Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack on December 27, causing the elections to be delayed. The two parties thrashed out their differences at the talks on Sunday. "The leadership was of the firm opinion that the coalition partners are ready to form the government and the national and provincial assemblies should be convened immediately," Sharif said on Sunday.Musharraf on Saturday urged the incoming government to leave politics aside and focus on good governance, economic management and peace and stability. He denied accusations that he was delaying calling the new parliament, and said Friday the new assemblies would be convened within 10 days.Zardari said they had nothing "personal" against the embattled Musharraf. But Sharif said they considered him to be an unconstitutional president.

Zardari to become Pak PM in 3 months: Report

Islamabad, 10 November, 2006 (Agencies): PPP Chairman Asif Ali Zardari is believed to have decided to take over as Prime Minister of Pakistan after three months, The News daily reported on Monday.The paper said Zardari had reportedly shared the "multi-million dollar secret" with his party MPs from Hyderabad region on Saturday night when he told them that he would bring a Prime Minister from Punjab for 90 days and become Prime Minister after contesting elections.Amin Fahim, the Prime Minister hopeful, told the paper that he too had heard from the partymen that Zardari had told members of the National Assembly on Saturday that he has decided to become Prime Minister. But Fahim said unless he heard himself from the mouth of Zardari he would not give any reaction.The paper said this is the third major policy shift in Zardari's stance in the last 60 days. First, he had announced Fahim as Prime Minister, then he changed his mind and started talking about a Prime Minister from Punjab after backing "Now, finally he is believed to have decided to become the candidate for the top post, after pitting the top four leaders against each other.""The four otherwise shrewd politicians were smartly made to fight each other so that instead of getting united against him at any stage, none of them could pose any challenge for him at the time of the decision of the prime ministership," the daily said. It said Zardari has decided to take over as Prime Minister in deference to the aspirations of the Sindhis who strongly feel that the Prime Minister should be from their province.At Saturday's meeting, Zardari sought the opinion of member of National Assembly, Fahmida Mirza, who along with many others immediately endorsed the idea. The MPs felt that his decision to become Prime Minister might stop the likely rift in the party which became pronounced after four contenders laid their claim to the post. However, the daily quoted sources in the party to say that when the turn of another MP, Nawab Yousaf Talpur came, he said nobody could stop Zardari if he wanted to become Prime Minister.But he wanted Fahim to be rewarded for his loyalty and made the interim Prime Minister for three months.

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