M A I N   N E W S

Zardari, Sharif to form govt
Afzal Khan & Agencies

Islamabad, February 21
Pakistan’s two main opposition parties, which won the most seats in Monday’s parliamentary election, will work together to form a coalition government, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said today.

“We have agreed on a common agenda. We will work together to form the government in the centre and in the provinces,” Sharif told a news conference after talks with Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari.

“We will ensure that you complete a full five years’ term,” Sharif said, addressing Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

The PPP and Sharif’s party trounced the Pakistan Muslim League-Q party, which is allied to President Pervez Musharraf, in Monday’s parliamentary elections.

Sharif said the two parties had overcome their differences over his demands for the immediate restoration of the country’s chief justice, whom Musharraf sacked in November.

“In principle there is no disagreement on the restoration of the judiciary. We will work out the modalities in the parliament,” he said.

Zardari said there were “a lot of grounds to cover” between the two parties, but added: “Inshallah (God willing) we will be meeting off and on. In principle, we have agreed to stay together.”

A Charter of Democracy signed between Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto would also be implemented in letter and spirit.

Earlier today, PPP and Pakhtun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) agreed on a four-point agenda as basis for cooperating in forming a coalition government at centre.

Accompanied by their respective party leaders, Zardari and ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan met at Zardari House here.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Asfandyar Wali and Zardari said they had agreed in principle to work together for restoration of a genuine democratic order under the 1973 constitution, as it existed in 1999 before military coup.

The meeting took place ahead of the meeting between Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.

Prior to his meeting with Zardari, Nawaz presided over a meeting of PML-N’s parliamentary party, which elected him its leader while Shahbaz Sharif was chosen as parliamentary leader in Punjab assembly. Both brothers were disqualified from contesting elections.

Asfandyar said the PPP has a right to form the government at the centre for being the single largest party. The ANP would extend its support to a PPP-led government for strengthening democratic institutions, supremacy of Parliament, provincial autonomy and restoration of independence of judiciary.

Zardari said both sides have shared perceptions on terrorism, extremism and basic freedoms including independence of judiciary and freedom of press. Close aides of both leaders said their views almost converge on the question of reinstatement of deposed judges that is underlined by a divergence from those of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.

Asfandyar conveyed his protest to Zardari over the ongoing concerted campaign by leaders of NWFP chapter of the PPP to woo Independent members and undercut ANP’s claim to the formation of government as the single largest majority party. The provincial president of the PPP has told the media that majority of 20 Independent members have assured him their support.

“We acknowledge PPP’s right to head the governments at the centre and in Sindh for having won single largest majority, “ Wali Khan told reporters during joint briefing with Zardari. “We also expect that our right to form the government in NWFP for being the single largest majority party in the province with 32 seats against PPP ‘s 17,” Khan said.

President Musharraf also met his key allies to evaluate the emerging situation and discuss options for post-election course. PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, former Punjab chief minister Pervez Elahi and Sindh governor Ishratul Abad who represented the MQM separately met Musharraf at the Presidency to assess the evolving political situation.

Elahi later told reporters that his party would continue to stand by Musharraf and face the evolving political situation.

He said Musharraf’s allies including PML-Q, MQM, PML-Functional and PPP-Sherpao polled highest number of 40 per cent votes compared to 37 per cent by the PPP and 33 per cent by PML-N. The PML-Q won seats from all four provinces while PML-N does not exist in Sindh and Balochistan.

He said the PML-Q would sit in the opposition and closely watch the performance of the government. He was confident that the government formed by PPP and PML-N would fall apart in no time. “We will closely watch their performance and keep a tab on how they fulfill the promises made to the people before elections, including reinstatement of judges,” he said.



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