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Sharief's Muslim League to stand by Bhutto's PPP

Written by: Staff

Islamabad, Nov 23: The Pakistan Muslim League of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will prefer to stand by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Benazir Bhutto rather than the Islamic alliance, Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal(MMA) on the issue of resignations from the assemblies.

Breaking ranks with the PPP at this juncture will lead to disintegration of the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), Dawn newspaper quoted ARD secretary-general Iqbal Zafar Jhaghra as saying in Lahore.

Both the PML (N) and PPP are the main components of the alliance, formed to wage struggle against the military government of President General Pervez Musharraf and to restore 1973 constitution that existed before the military coup in 1999.

He said PML decided to quit the assemblies without taking the PPP along, paving way for break-up of the six-year old alliance.

The MMA has decided to resign from the National Assembly in protest against approval of the Women Protection Bill from the lower house, which repealed the controversial Islamic Hudood Laws, considered highly discriminatory against women and promulgated by a former military dictator Zia-ul-Haq in 1979.

Mr Jhagra said while the MMA was threatening to come out of the assemblies on the issue of women's rights bill, the PML-N would not follow the suit. Instead, he said, it would take a decision on the subject in consultation with the PPP.

Legislators of both the parties have already submitted their resignations to their respective leaders, leaving it to them to decide the time of handing them over to the speakers.

If all opposition lawmakers take a collective decision, their resignations would mean vacation of 136 out of total 342 seats of the National Assembly. (At the time of a recent no-trust motion against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, 136 MNAs had voted against him).

The PML-N is contacting other opposition parties and inviting them to an all-party conference, likely to be held in the second half of December in London to ensure participation of exiled former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif.

The ARD secretary-general tried to talk to MMA President Qazi Husain Ahmed and Secretary-General Maulana Fazlur Rehman yesterday but either their phones were switched off or they were holding meetings.

The APC, according to Mr Jhaghra, would discuss a strategy to bring military interventions to an end, restore the 1973 Constitution as it stood before the October 1999 coup and build up pressure for formation of an interim government and appointment of an independent election commission.

He said the APC would also decide whether a movement should be launched before or after submission of resignations.

Mr Jhaghra said his party would not accept any election held in the presence of Gen Pervez Musharraf.

''This is an irreversible decision. Our party will not accept elections under the supervision of a dictator,'' he said.

He believed said that the security of the country had been endangered by the dictator and he should quit immediately.

The sooner the elections were held the better, the ARD leader said, adding that March-April 2007 would be an ideal time for general elections.


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