Musharraf allies reject coalition offer

Other News Materials 14 April 2008 06:27 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - A party allied with President Pervez Musharraf has spurned an offer to join Pakistan's new coalition government, officials said Sunday.

The government, led by the party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has been trying to win over political rivals to help push through its agenda, including curbing the powers of U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf and restoring Supreme Court judges that he purged.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, of the Pakistan People's Party, had offered the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM, a spot in government to keep tensions down and avoid violence.

MQM leader Farooq Sattar told reporters Sunday that the two parties could not work out their differences.

"We had several rounds of talks with the PPP leadership, but they always turned a cold shoulder, and the negotiations on their part were immensely non-serious," Sattar said.

The PPP and MQM, an ethnic-based political party, generally have been hostile to each other. Bhutto's party had blamed the MQM for an October suicide attack that she survived in Karachi, two months before she was assassinated.

Ties between the two parties had been improving, but clashes broke out this week between lawyers affiliated with the MQM and pro-government attorneys in Karachi. Subsequent rioting left 10 people dead in the southern port city.

On Thursday, Sattar called the Karachi violence "a bid to sabotage democracy" and said "the country is being pushed toward anarchy." The MQM controls Karachi, Pakistan's business hub, and was a key member of the coalition government that supported Musharraf's military rule.

National Information Minister Sherry Rehman said MQM was free to make its own decision, but warned the country cannot afford confrontation and violence.

The "People's Party tried its level best to bring MQM on board, but if MQM wants to be in opposition, this is their right. But we expect a positive attitude from them. There is no room for politics of riots and arson."

The new coalition government was formed after Musharraf's opponents routed his allies in Feb. 18 parliamentary elections.