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PPP virtually stakes claim to form new Govt

PPP's plea to the Musharraf regime to invite it follows reports that the embattled leader may step down in days.
By Rezaul H Laskar | PTI, Islamabad
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2008 10:38 PM IST

As uncertainty over formation of next government in Pakistan persisted, the PPP, which emerged the largest party in the recent general election, on Sunday asked the Musharraf regime to invite it to form new administration amid reports that the beleaguered President was finalising an "exit strategy for himself."

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leaders, who have been discussing possible formation of a coalition government with other opposition parting following the February 18 polls, said the administration had not yet invited it to form government.

The matter was also discussed during PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari's meeting with newly elected lawmakers from Balochistan province, they said while asking the government to convene a session of the new National Assembly.

Former premier Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party and the PPP last week announced plans to form coalition governments at the centre and in the provinces.

Senior PML-N leader Khwaja Muhammad Asif on Sunday called on Zardari to discuss cooperation between the two parties in forming the new government. Asif told reporters he had no message for Zardari from PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.

"My meeting is a continuation of the earlier meeting between the PPP and PML-N on forming the government. We had agreed to have further consultations and to discuss the emerging political situation," Asif said. "We have decided we will work together and respect each other's mandate."

A close aide of President Pervez Musharraf, meanwhile, told London's Sunday Telegraph that the embattled leader, whose allies were routed in the polls, "is considering stepping down in days" to avoid a showdown with the newly elected Parliament. However, a Presidential spokesman denied that Musharraf was considering quitting.

One of Musharraf's close aides told the British daily that the President "has already started discussing the exit strategy for himself."

"I think it is now just a matter of days and not months because he would like to make a graceful exit on a high," the unnamed aide was quoted as as saying.

The PML-Q, the party which backed Musharraf, suffered a crushing defeat in the polls in all provinces except Balochistan, where it emerged the single largest group.

Setting the stage for a possible confrontation with the next government, Pakistan's caretaker administration plans to print a new edition of the Constitution containing amendments made by Musharraf during last year's emergency that have been rejected by the victorious opposition parties.

The move has made newly elected lawmakers of the PPP and PML-N, who are set to form a coalition, wary as they may have to take oath under the Constitution with amendments that have been validated by the new Supreme Court comprising Musharraf's handpicked judges who endorsed the emergency.

The PPP and PML-N have rejected the amendments, which they say are "unconstitutional and invalid", and Sharif has also vowed to get all of Musharraf's actions during the emergency rolled back.

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