Pakistani opposition in coalition talks

( AP ) - Leaders of Pakistan's two main opposition parties said Tuesday they would form a coalition government if - as expected - their groups win the biggest share of votes in next week's parliamentary elections.

The hour-long meeting of Benazir Bhutto's widowed husband, Asif Ali Zardari, and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came one day after a survey by a U.S. government-funded organization predicted the opposition would score a landslide victory in the Feb. 18 ballot.

Zardari told reporters his Pakistan People's Party would invite Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N as well as "other democratic forces" to join a governing coalition even if Bhutto's group won enough legislative seats to rule on its own.

"We will sit together because the country is passing through a dangerous phase, and we can only steer the country out of this crisis together," Zardari said. "I am conveying this message to the establishment that I will change this system."

Sharif, who hosted the meeting at his home, said the political, social and economic crisis facing Pakistan had reached the point that "we all have to join hands and save the country from any further deterioration."

Violence by Islamic extremists linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida has been rising, particularly in the northwestern regions along the border with Afghanistan, and politics has been snarled in bitter wrangling over the long military rule led by President Pervez Musharraf.

A survey released Monday by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute said half the Pakistanis polled planned to vote for Bhutto's party and 22 percent backed Sharif's PML-N party. The party supporting the president came in third, with 14 percent.The overwhelming majority of those polled would prefer a governing coalition of Bhutto's party and Sharif's bloc if no group wins a majority in parliament, the survey said.

The survey, which questioned 3,845 adults Jan. 19-29, put Musharraf's approval rating at an all-time low of 15 percent. The survey has a sampling error margin of plus or minus two percentage points.

Tariq Azeem, a spokesman for the pro-Musharraf party, disputed the survey's findings, but he also predicted his group would lose parliament seats.

Musharraf, the former army chief who seized power in a 1999 coup against Sharif, was re-elected by the former parliament to another five-year term in October. But he needs a strong majority in the new assembly to block any move to impeach him.

Opposition against Musharraf began rising with his failed attempt last year to oust the Supreme Court's chief justice, and the anger intensified when he imposed temporary emergency rule in November and removed Supreme Court judges seen as a challenge to his continued rule.

The election is aimed ushering in a new democratic era after years of military rule under Musharraf, who gave up his dual post as military commander two months ago to govern as a civilian.

But the campaign is taking place against a backdrop of fear over militant violence and apathy over prospects for improvements in Pakistani life.

Security fears have prompted many candidates to curb campaigning since Bhutto was assassinated by a bombing and gun attack after a political rally Dec. 27.

Underscoring security fears, at least nine people were wounded Tuesday by a bomb blast near the office of a candidate in Khuzdar, a town in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. The candidate escaped injury.

Over the weekend, dozens of people were killed in a suicide bombing at a campaign rally, while an attack Monday wounded a candidate out campaigning.

The military announced that tens of thousands of soldiers had been placed on alert to bolster security during the election. Senior military officers insisted the soldiers would not interfere with the vote.

The Interior Ministry spokesman, Jawed Iqbal Cheema, said provincial officials had asked for the troops to help maintain order, but he promised none would be stationed at voting stations - a move that could serve to intimidate voters.

"We want to make sure people can cast their vote without any fear," he said. "Nobody will be allowed to disrupt the polling process ... Anyone who tries to do so will be dealt with sternly."

Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with Arktika-M satellite blasts off from Baikonur spaceport
Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with Arktika-M satellite blasts off from Baikonur spaceport
COVID-19 Update: 83,179 Kyrgyzstanis recovered
COVID-19 Update: 83,179 Kyrgyzstanis recovered
Kazakhstan adds 791 new COVID-19 cases
Kazakhstan adds 791 new COVID-19 cases
Loading Bars
Latest
Azerbaijan reports 117 more COVID-19 recoveries
European Council President to visit Georgia today
Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with Arktika-M satellite blasts off from Baikonur spaceport
Certain villages in Iran to be supplied with gas
Bloody events in Sumgayit city - planned provocation against Azerbaijan - Foreign Ministry
Azerbaijan shares Eyvazkhanbeyli village of Aghdam district (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Iran's Tehran Oil Refining Company signs contract to increase refining
China's factory activity expands at a slower pace in February, misses expectations
Turkey set to support Croatia's post-quake revival: Turkish FM
COVID-19 Update: 83,179 Kyrgyzstanis recovered
Georgia reports 248 coronavirus cases, 525 recoveries, 11 deaths
Iran's Gorgan-Mashhad railway to be built
Trade relations between Azerbaijan and Russian Ulyanovsk region expanding
Weekly review of Azerbaijani ICT sector highlights
UK's Sunak will set out plans to raise income tax by 6 billion sterling
Australia receives AstraZeneca vials as it ramps up vaccination drive
January 2021 value of mortgage loans in Azerbaijan grows in absolute terms
Kazakhstan adds 791 new COVID-19 cases
5.5-magnitude quake hits 81 km SW of Islay (Matarani), Peru
Iranian Minister unveils ports' infrastructure dev't plans
Turkey confirms 9,193 new COVID-19 cases, 2,693,164 in total
S&P Global affirms Georgia’s sovereign credit rating at ‘BB’
Razi COVID-19 vaccine to begin clinical trial: Minister
5 died after accident in northeast China chemical fiber plant
US regulator approves Johnson&Johnson coronavirus vaccine
Kazakhstan twofold decreases exports to Norway amid COVID-19
Iraq reports 3,543 new COVID-19 cases, 692,241 in total
5.3-magnitude quake hits 3 km SW of Point MacKenzie, Alaska
Qatar reports 460 new COVID-19 cases, 163,197 in total
Weekly review of highlights in Azerbaijani financial market
UK records another 7,434 coronavirus cases, 290 deaths
It is necessary to end deployment of Armenian armed forces on territory of Azerbaijan - Foreign Ministry
WHO reports over 420,000 new daily cases of COVID-19
Istanbul’s major Galataport project to go live in April
0.03% of pupils and 0.1% of school staff in Georgia confirmed with Covid-19 this week
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on February 28
Uzbekistan's largest share in formation of GDP falls on Tashkent
Azerbaijan's revenues from tea, coffee exports double in Jan.2021
Cargo movements in Iran's Khalij-e-Fars port increase
China conditionally approves one-shot recombinant COVID-19 vaccine
Stock gains power Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway to higher profit
More than 165,000 apply for Turkey’s most popular scholarship
Georgian Railway resumes passenger transfers
Kazakhstan reports value increase in all types of deposits
New road put into operation in Iran's Golestan Province
Azerbaijan sets up working subgroups to prepare 2021-2025 Development Strategy
Bahar Azadi gold coin price falling in Iran
Azerbaijan reports 172 more COVID-19 recoveries
Azerbaijan's Ministry of Finance to put up medium-term bonds for auction
Azerbaijan's banking sector ends January 2021 with profit
Foundation of several manufacturing enterprises laid in Iran's Qazvin Province
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy spare parts for metal detector via tender
USAID to promote start-up dev’t in Turkmenistan
President Aliyev: Any attempt to violate implementation of November 10th declaration will be very harmful for Armenia (VIDEO)
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for February 27
Bosnian TV channel visits liberated Azerbaijani Aghdam, reminds of Khojaly genocide
Azerbaijani police officers find ordnances left by Armenians in Khojavand (PHOTO)
Long-term energy demand impact of COVID-19 is modest
President Aliyev to Iranian reporter: Your question is a kind of an accusation (VIDEO)
New Zealand's largest city Auckland back to lockdown after COVID-19 case
Iran pins hopes on Swiss financial channel to purchase COVID-19 vaccines
Foreign journalists visit village where two-year-old Azerbaijani girl was killed by Armenians
Volume of cargo loaded, unloaded in Iran’s Chabahar port revealed
Weekly review of Azerbaijan's oil and gas sector
Eni Turkmenistan Ltd opens tender for catering, housekeeping services
Kazakhstan boosts imports of Switzerland-made products
Uzbek ministry, German Society for International Cooperation sign agreement
Uzbekistan, China expand mutual trade despite COVID-19
Georgia reports 373 new cases of coronavirus on Feb.27
Buy/sell operations at Iran Mercantile Exchange soar
Weekly review of Azerbaijani precious metals market
Baku Metro continues preparatory work for commissioning of new 'November' 8 station
Iran's exports to Russia increase
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy spare parts for pumps via tender
Kazakh airlines eye to launch several flights on Turkestan-Istanbul route
UNDP in Turkmenistan opens tender for services on seismic work
Volume of electricity generated by renewable energy power plants in Iran announced
Researcher talks monuments on ancient Azerbaijani lands vandalized by Armenians (PHOTO)
Uzbekistan reveals COVID-19 data for Feb. 27
Azerbaijan's MoD shares footage from Gubadly's Afandilar village (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Iranian currency rates for February 27
Remittances from Azerbaijan to Georgia show highest growth rate
Belarus considering possibility of supplying agricultural machinery to Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan’s Turkmenbashi Oil Refinery exceeds plan for kerosene production
Azerbaijani oil prices published
Kazakhstan's uranium mining company opens tender to acquire electro-technical materials
Issuance of construction permissions in Georgia down
Philippines extends partial coronavirus curbs in capital until end-March
Weekly review of Azerbaijani currency market
Kazakh gas supply company to attract equipment installation services via tender
Turkey's tourism industry puts hopes on safety measures for new season
Azerbaijani marketing platform plans to become regional player
Argentine health minister tests positive for COVID-19
Czech gov't declares new state of emergency over coronavirus
U.S. FDA advisors recommend approving Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use
Increase in malware attacks makes cybersecurity more relevant than ever - Kaspersky Lab in Azerbaijan
South Korea vaccinates 18,000 to start ambitious COVID-19 campaign
US may announce new sanctions on Russia within weeks - White House press secretary
Founder of Indian Jet Airways eyes opening airline in Uzbekistan’s Namangan region
Saudi Arabia rejects U.S. intelligence report on Khashoggi's killing: statement
All news