Zardari discusses new government with fellow Pakistani opposition

Other News Materials 21 February 2008 15:18 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Pakistani opposition leader Asif Ali Zardari met Thursday with fellow winners of the country's national elections earlier in the week to discuss forming a coalition government.

Zardari, widower of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and co-chairman of the winning Pakistan People's Party (PPP), met Thursday afternoon with Asfand Yar Wali, chairman of the Awami National Party (ANP), a secular-left party based in the country's volatile North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

The ANP emerged as the largest party in the NWFP provincial elections, winning 9 of the 272 contested seats in the national parliament. The PPP won 88 seats in parliament and will be tasked with forming the next government and nominating a prime minister.

Geo TV reported that Wali presented Zardari a list of conditions to join a coalition government, including pledges to increase military action against Islamic militants in the NWFP, greater regional autonomy, and to change the province's name to "Pakhtoonkhwa" (Land of the Pashtuns) to reflect its Pashtu-speaking majority.

At 7 PM (1400 GMT) Thursday, Zardari was scheduled to meet with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) finished second to the PPP in Monday's vote with 67 seats.

The PPP and PML-N took 60 percent of the vote, trashing the ruling party of embattled President Pervez Musharraf and ensuring a simple majority enabling them to form the next government.

Zardari on Wednesday ruled out a coalition with Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, but said he was open to inviting smaller regional parties not linked to the previous government into a coalition.

Meanwhile, four lawyers were injured Thursday in clashes with riot police in the eastern city of Lahore during a demonstration demanding the release of several detained judges and lawyers arrested after Musharraf imposed a state of emergency and suspended the constitution on November 3.

Tens of thousands of lawyers nationwide are boycotting court proceedings to protest the arrests, as well as the sacking of dozens of Supreme Court and High Court judges by Musharraf, bringing the country's judiciary to a standstill.

Police fired tear gas and used batons to beat the protesters, who threw stones at the officers, Geo reported.