PPP’s Zardari stakes claim to form government

February 20th, 2008 - 12:56 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Devirupa Mitra
Islamabad, Feb 19 (IANS) Staking the claim of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to form the next government, Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday indicated his willingness to form a coalition with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party, but rejected the possibility of any role for the members of the previous government. Zardari also spoke by telephone with Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with 65 seats was placed second in the tally. The two leaders are expected to meet Wednesday in talks over power-sharing.

“PPP declares victory in all of Pakistan… (We have) won the elections with a majority. We demand to be allowed to make the government along with our allies,” Zardari, husband of slain PPP leader and former premier Benazir Bhutto, told reporters Tuesday night.

According to unofficial reports, the PPP had won 87 seats, while PML-N got 66, with the outgoing ruling party PML-Quaid a distant third at 38 seats after 46 percent of Pakistan’s population cast their vote in the general elections Monday.

Zardari had earlier prefaced his remarks on victory by saying that it was “not a happy occasion” as it came after the death of his wife Dec 27 in a suicide bombing.

He said the people had given a “simple mandate” of rejection of the party in power, referring to the PML-Q. “Now, the party of power (PML-Q) has accepted that they were defeated due to the politics of President Pervez Musharraf,” he said.

While extending a hand of friendship to PML-N and the Awami National Party, Zardari’s said his primary condition before his possible allies for power-sharing would be an inquiry by the United Nations into Bhutto’s assassination.

Besides, he called for the release of the detained judges, including chief justice Iftikhar Choudhury and the Supreme Court bar association’s Aitzaz Ahsan, as well as the restoration of the powers of the judiciary.

Zardari asserted he would restore and strengthen the power of parliament. “We want to make it stronger, so that its power are never taken away in the future,” he said.

He also promised autonomy to the four provinces as well as freedom of media through removal of the PEMRA ordinance.

He, however, did not clarify who would be the prime ministerial candidate for the party. He said that would be decided “after talks” with supporting parties

Asked about how a future PPP-PML-N government will be able to work with President Musharraf, Zardari avoided a direct reply but said: “We are always fighting for political space. We are going to come to power to strengthen parliament and not to strengthen a dictator.”

Earlier, Sharif told reporters in Lahore that he was ready to form a government to get “rid of dictatorship from Pakistan forever”.

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