Pakistan parliament sworn in Monday under tight security

March 17th, 2008 - 7:59 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
Islamabad, March 17 (DPA) Pakistan’s 13th National Assembly was sworn in Monday under tight security and hanging questions about who will lead the coalition government. Outgoing National Assembly speaker Amir Hussain chaired the session where 328 newly elected members of parliament were sworn in under the original 1973 constitution.

One of their first acts was to offer a prayer for the departed soul of Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated last December 27 while campaigning in the election.

Her widower Asif Ali Zardari, who took the reins of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) after her death, called convening parliament “our first step towards a democracy.”

“We have conveyed a message to the world community to support democracy, which defeats dictatorship,” he said.

The PPP is expected to lead a coalition government that would also include the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led by Nawaz Sharif, also a former premier.

The party will wait until later in the week to name its choice for prime minister, spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

PPP and Sharif’s party finished first and second in the Feb 18 election, while the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, President Pervez Musharraf’s political backers, finished a distant third.

Sharif, before entering parliament, called the change in government “democracy versus dictatorship” referring to Musharraf’s removal of more than 60 senior judges under an emergency order on Nov 3. He sacked the judges to prevent the Supreme Court from disqualifying him for another presidential term.

The coalition has said it will reinstate those judges within 30 days of the formation of the government, signalling a battle with Musharraf who has shown no signs he will leave willingly.

Once the deposed judges are reinstated they can revoke the approval and force Musharraf to leave office.

But the problem of Islamic militancy and suicide bombings that increased recently will have to be one of the first issues the coalition government addresses.

Some newly-elected lawmakers have called for dialogue with the militants, a reversal of the military strategy pursued by Musharraf, a key US ally in fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the tribal areas.

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