(by Matthew Pennington, February 22, 2008, WashingtonTimes.com) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s two main opposition parties announced yesterday they would form a new government together, but skirted the issue of whether they would push for the ouster of U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf.
The agreement between the secular groups, which competed for over power for a decade before Mr. Musharraf seized control in a 1999 coup, marks an important step toward setting up a civilian administration to govern Pakistan after years of military rule.
Asif Ali Zardari, husband of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, whose last government was ousted by Mr. Musharraf, made the announcement after meeting in Islamabad.
“We have agreed on a common agenda. We will work together to form a government together in the center and in the provinces,” Mr. Sharif told reporters. He said a smaller group, the Awami National Party, would join them.
“The future of democracy is within our grasp. We will strengthen the parliament, we will strengthen democracy, we will work together for Pakistan. We will make a stronger Pakistan,” Mr. Zardari said.
Mrs. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party won 87 National Assembly seats in Monday’s election, and Mr. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N won 67 out of the 268 contested seats. The pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q got 40, with the rest going to smaller parties and independent candidates. Six seats have yet to be announced.
The new government is expected to be installed by mid-March.
The election exposed Mr. Musharraf’s lack of public support amid rising Islamic militancy and anger over his crackdown on the judiciary. It also raised questions about his survival as head of state. He recently resigned his post of military commander, considerably diminishing his power.
While both parties rode a wave of anti-Musharraf sentiment, they still have to hammer out the details of how they will share power and resolve their differing policies.
Mr. Sharif has been far sterner in demanding Mr. Musharraf’s ouster and in seeking the reinstatement of the chief justice, one of dozens of independent-minded judges sacked by the president in November just as the Supreme Court was to rule on the legality of his re-election by parliament.
Yesterday, Mr. Sharif made an impassioned address to protesters at the Islamabad home of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, demanding his release and restoration to the court, which is now stacked with Musharraf appointees.
Mr. Musharraf, a key ally of Washington in its war on terrorist groups, has said he has no intention of resigning and will serve out his five-year term.
However, many Pakistanis see Mr. Musharraf as a divisive figure whose continued presence could lead to political confrontation and destabilize the new government.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said it was up to the Pakistanis “to decide whether Musharraf retains his position.” But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. officials also are telling opposition forces that moderates should work together to fight extremists and move toward democracy.
Copyright 2008 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.
1. a) Which 3 parties will form a new government in Pakistan?
b) How many National Assembly seats did each of the two main parties win in Monday’s election?
2. When will the new government take over?
3. What did the election results show about President Musharraf?
4. What details will the two main parties still need to work out?
5. What goals does Mr. Zardari have for Pakistan’s government?
6. What does Nawaz Sharif want to make a priority as he comes to power?
7. Pakistan’s constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the parliament (the Senate and the National Assembly) to force the president from power.
-President Musharraf has said he has no intention of resigning and will serve out his five-year term.
-The Sharif-Zardari coalition does not have enough votes to force Pres. Musharraf out.
-It is noted that Pres. Musharraf has been a key ally of the U.S. in the war on terrorist groups.
-This article failed to mention that Pres. Musharraf has not done as much as he could to help the U.S. capture and defeat terrorists in northern Pakistan.
Do you think Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif’s parties will ally themselves with the U.S. to fight Islamic extremists in Pakistan? Explain your answer.
NOTE ON Pakistan’s National Assembly election:
The vote, originally scheduled for early January, was postponed until February 18th in the wake of the assassination of opposition politician Benazir Bhutto, killed on December 27 while she was campaigning in Rawalpindi.
NOTE ON the government of Pakistan: (from wikipedia.org)
- Pakistan is a semi-presidential federal democratic republic with Islam as the state religion.
- The Constitution of Pakistan provides for a Federal Parliamentary System of government, with a President as the Head of State and an indirectly-elected Prime Minister as the chief executive.
- The bicameral legislature (called a Parliament – similar to our Congress) is made up of a 100-member Senate and a 342-member National Assembly.
- The President is the Head of State and is elected by an electoral college composed of the Senate, the National Assembly, and the four Provincial Assemblies.
- The President’s appointment and term are constitutionally independent of the Prime Minister’s term. The current President of Pakistan is Pervez Musharraf, who came to power after a military coup on October 12, 1999.
- The Prime Minister of Pakistan is usually the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly.
- If no party wins a majority of the National Assembly, two or more parties may pool their seats and form a coalition to rule the Assembly.
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