Opponents vow to curb Musharraf's power | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 24, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 24, 2008

Opponents vow to curb Musharraf's power

Pro-govt party won't obstruct coalition formation

The leaders of Pakistan's main opposition party vowed yesterday to curtail some of President Pervez Musharraf's broad powers, including his right to dismiss parliament, following their sweeping win in recent elections.
They also mulled candidates for the next prime minister with a veteran politician reputed to be a consensus builder emerging as the favourite.
PPP leaders were considering various proposals in closed-door talks through the weekend. Though a final decision was not expected before Monday, PPP leaders indicated they would push to strip the president of the right to dismiss parliament.
"The participants ... vowed to work for the restoration of the parliamentary supremacy by undoing undemocratic provisions under which elected parliaments have been dismissed," the party said in a statement.
The head of state has the power to dissolve parliament under an article of the constitution first included under the late President Zia ul-Haq. The article was removed after Zia ul-Haq's death in 1988 death but was reinstated under Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup.
New government will likely name its choice for prime minister in early March, party officials said yesterday, as uncertainty surrounded the future of key US ally President Pervez Musharraf.
The two biggest parties to emerge after Monday's parliamentary election have been weighing their choice for premier after agreeing to form a coalition.
Officials from both parties said the frontrunner to be prime minister was Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the widely respected vice president of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
"There is an agreement that Fahim should be the parliamentary leader and candidate for PM but the announcement is unlikely to be made public before the parliament is convened into session, most probably in the first week of March," a senior PPP official, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Other possible nominees include Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a top People's Party figure from Punjab province, and former National Assembly speaker Yousuf Raza Gilani, party officials and analysts said.
Shafqat Mahmood, a prominent political commentator and former People's Party spokesman, said Fahim was the favorite in part because the party wanted a prime minister from Sindh province, the Bhutto family stronghold. Both Qureshi and Gilani are from Punjab, the biggest and richest of Pakistan's four provinces.
Fahim "is a consensus builder," Mahmood said. "He would be good in a coalition and in papering over differences."
Fahim, a mild-mannered figure, served as the go-between for Musharraf and Bhutto during her eight years in exile. Fahim turned down the prime minister's post five years ago because Musharraf wanted him to cut his ties to the Bhutto family.
The Pakistan People's Party once headed by assassinated ex-premier Benazir Bhutto won parliamentary elections this week following a yearlong political crisis that saw the imposition of emergency rule, the purging of the judiciary and the rounding up of hundreds of Musharraf's opponents.
Those challenges have been coupled with rising militant violence in Pakistan, especially in the northwest where al-Qaeda- and Taliban-linked militants operate. Musharraf has been a US ally in the war on terror, but his campaign against militants has further damaged his reputation among many Pakistanis who resent American influence.
Local media reported Saturday that Musharraf and the United States were pushing the PPP and their partner, the Pakistan Muslim League-N led by former premier Nawaz Sharif, to work with the president rather than try to remove him.
PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP that Bhutto's widower and party leader Asif Ali Zardari had met the US envoy in Islamabad.
"Co-chairman Zardari has met the US envoy twice and I do not think there is any pressure on us," he told AFP. "They want to know what is going to be the shape of things."
A spokesman for Sharif's party told AFP that pressure from "certain quarters" -- which he did not name -- would not be helpful to democracy.
"There are a lot of conspiracies and a lot of pressure but such tactics are against Pakistan's interest and against the nation's verdict which it gave on February 18," Siddiqul Farooq said.
Supporters of key US ally President Pervez Musharraf vowed not to obstruct the coalition.
The two biggest parties to emerge after Monday's parliamentary election have been weighing their choice for premier after agreeing to form a coalition.
Pro-Musharraf party leaders met in Islamabad on Saturday for the first time since their electoral defeat.
"We will play a constructive, positive, vibrant and active role as opposition and will not obstruct the working of the new government," said Mushahid Hussain, secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

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