Amid opposition furore over its decision to get President Pervez Musharraf re-elected by the present assemblies later this year, the Pakistan government has said it has not decided on the timing of the poll as it is the job of the Election Commission.
It also said that Musharraf would be the joint candidate of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) alliance for a five-year presidential term.
With opposition members in the Senate questioning the right of the cabinet to take such a decision, Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durani said the cabinet on Wednesday only heard briefings by legal experts over Musharraf's re-election.
"It is not the job of the cabinet to take such a decision. It is for the Election Commission to decide when to hold an election," he said while trying to pacify agitated members of opposition parties on Thursday.
Leader of Opposition in the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said "opposition will resist any such move inside and outside parliament. Our option of tendering en-bloc resignations is still open".
Rabbani, a senior leader of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said the government's decision was "unconstitutional and based on political bankruptcy".
However, after the House was adjourned Durrani was quoted by the official news agency APP as saying that Musharraf would be the joint candidate of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) alliance for a five-year presidential term.
After a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Durrani had said that Musharraf would be re-elected by the present National and Provincial Assemblies between September and October ahead of the general elections due later this year.
Durrani said Musharraf's present term would end almost a week before the completion of the five-year term of the sitting assemblies on November 16, 2007.
"The cabinet was told that as per the Constitution, the assemblies would complete their term on November 16.
The president should be elected between September and October 2007 and the interim set-up will be put in place in line with the constitutional provisions," he said.
Interestingly, opposition to the announcement for Musharraf's re-election came from PPP whose leader Bhutto apparently held backchannel talks with Musharraf's confidantes for a political rapprochement.
Bhutto's confidante Amin Fahim told reporters that if Musharraf went ahead with the plans to get re-elected, PPP would campaign for mass resignation of members of the opposition parties from all assemblies even if the government went ahead with the decision of holding by-polls.
PPP Spokesman Faratullah Babar questioned Durani's contention that Musharraf's term ended before that of National and Provincial Assemblies.
Questioning the move, he said in a statement that general elections for the Assemblies were held in Oct 2002 and Musharraf got the vote of confidence in December 31, 2003 from the present assemblies.
"As the term of President is for five years, the re-election of the President will occur on December 31, 2008, if the Assemblies are dissolved by their last date which would be November, 2007," he said.
The announcement of Musharraf's re-election in the meantime has re-united the divided opposition parties.
Bhutto, who was seriously considering to abstain from a meeting of opposition parties convened by another former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif in London next month now may attend it to galvanise the movement against Musharraf.
PPP has been saying that it would oppose Musharraf's re-election by the same assemblies besides his continuation in uniform.