A coalition partner in Pakistan's ruling alliance has asked President Pervez Musharraf to work out modalities to ensure free and fair general polls, including establishment of an independent election commission and building a consensus with the opposition parties.
Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML) Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Sayed surprised opposition party benches during a debate in the Senate by calling for an All Party Conference (APC) to discuss the forthcoming polls.
Without elaborating on whether exiled former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif should be invited for the APC, he said the meeting should discuss the establishment of an independent Election Commission; agree on consensus with opposition parties regarding the "rules of engagement" to ensure free and fair elections.
"This is the time when the president should call an APC where all parties including those representing the opposition should be invited to deliberate upon the solutions of the problems and challenges faced by the country," he was quoted in the media in Islamabad as saying on Thursday.
Such a move, he stressed, would strengthen national reconciliation and uphold the democratic political process, while simultaneously safeguarding Pakistan's status as the world's freest Muslim country.
His call for APC came as Sharif has called a meeting of parties in London next month to finalise a strategy to oust Musharraf. Bhutto, however, said she would not attend the meeting due to her reservations about participation of Islamist alliance Muthahida Majlis Amal (MMA).