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Pakistani PM dismisses opposition criticism

Written by: Staff

Islamabad, Aug 24: Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz dismissed today opposition accusations against him and said a motion of no confidence in him would fail in parliament.

The fractious Pakistani opposition united yesterday to lodge a no-confidence motion in Aziz, accusing him of neglecting the poor and of corruption. It is due to be debated next week.

The motion is not expected to succeed as pro-government members hold a majority in parliament but it could prove an embarrassment for Aziz, a former banker picked to head the government in 2004 by President Pervez Musharraf.

It could also give heart to those opposed to Musharraf, the army chief who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, in the run-up to a general election next year, analysts say.

Musharraf, a major US ally in the war on terrorism, is expected to seek another term as president of his nuclear-armed country next year.

Aziz dismissed a 500-page dossier opposition politicians presented to the National Assembly yesterday. The politicians said the document contained evidence of government wrongdoing.

''We have not seen anything new in the charge sheet,'' Aziz told a news conference at parliament, referring to the dossier.

He said he would respond to specific accusations in the debate in parliament but transparency was his government's central pillar.

''The opposition's no-confidence move will turn into a confidence vote in the government,'' said Aziz, a former finance minister credited with turning a sluggish economy into one enjoying good growth.

Conservative religious parties and liberal supporters of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif joined forces to submit the motion.

Bhutto and Sharif, the former living in self-imposed exile and the latter in exile following corruption accusations, vowed in May to work together for democracy.

Both said they would return before the next general election and analysts said the opposition's new-found unity could pose problems for the government.

Under the constitution, the president is elected by parliament.

Musharraf, whose term expires in November next year, has already said he can be re-elected for another term by this assembly, before its dissolution and fresh elections.


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