Sharif, Zardari challenge Musharraf to convene parliament

February 27th, 2008 - 8:48 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 27 (IANS) In their first show of strength after the polls, Pakistan’s opposition parties Wednesday challenged President Pervez Musharraf to call a session of the newly elected parliament and said parties backed by him had failed to muster support. “This is the time that Musharraf should step down,” former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said while addressing the meeting of 173 newly elected members of the National Assembly.

The gathering was called by assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that is set to form the central government with the help of other opposition parties and independent legislators-elect.

“Musharraf should see… we have the support of 173 members. Now there is no reason that a parliament session is not called,” Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari who now heads the party, said at the meeting.

He said that in the house of 342 members, they have a two-thirds majority if the special seats reserved for women and non-Muslims are included.

The National Assembly has 272 directly elected MPs, 60 seats are reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims that are divided among the parties in proportion to the elected seats they have won.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has yet to formally announce the results of the Feb 18 polls.

“They should announce the results immediately,” Zardari told reporters before going into the meeting.

“The election results should have been announced within two or three days, but it has not been done yet,” he said.

However, when contacted, ECP Secretary Kanwar M. Dilshad said the results would be officially announced March 1.

“We are in the process of compiling these results, the bulk of them have been announced and only a few remain,” Dilshad told IANS. The ECP also needed to compile election campaign expenditure data from the winning candidates for which the deadline is Feb 29, he added.

The Musharraf-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) could get only 39 seats while PPP won 88 and Sharif’s PML-N got 66. However, almost all of 27 independently elected parliamentarians have either joined the PML-N or the PPP.

Some of the PML-Q legislators-elect have also announced their support to a PPP-PML-N coalition.

At Wednesday’s lunch hosted by Zardari, members from the PPP, PML-N, the Awami National Party, independents and others were present.

Sharif said his party will extend unconditional support to the PPP in formation of the government while the PPP will reciprocate by supporting the PML-N in forming the government in Punjab, the country’s largest province with more than half of the total 160 million population and resources.

A two-thirds majority is required to amend the constitution and to impeach the president. Sharif indirectly challenged Musharraf to either step down or face the impeachment.

Musharraf as army chief in Oct 1999 overthrew Sharif’s elected government and a year later sent him into exile. Sharif with the help of Saudis managed to return to Pakistan in November last year to lead his party in last week’s elections.

Soon after the luncheon, Sharif and Zardari entered into a meeting with country’s top lawyer Fakharuddin G. Ibrahim to discuss the issue of restoration of judges, including former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Musharraf sacked these judges Nov 3 after he imposed emergency in the country to get himself elected for another five years.

Sharif has said the new government will restore the judges who would decide on Musharraf’s future.

“Even if the heavens fall, we will not accept Musharraf as president,” senior PML-N member Chaudhry Nisar Ali told reporters outside the meeting venue.

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