Pakistan rival party pledges support

Associated Press
Published February 24, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's outgoing ruling party promised Saturday to support the victors in combating Islamic extremism, while the winners discussed ways to curb President Pervez Musharraf's powers - especially his right to dismiss Parliament.

Mushahid Hussain, secretary-general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, told reporters that his pro-Musharraf party was prepared to play a "positive, constructive role" after suffering a crushing defeat in Monday's elections.

The two biggest opposition parties together captured at least 154 of the 268 contested seats in the National Assembly, compared to only 40 for the ruling party. The Election Commission has yet to declare the winners of six seats.

With the Pakistan People's Party of Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan Muslim League-N planning to form a coalition government, Hussain said his party would support the future administration in pursuing "a national agenda above party lines," including "combating extremism and terrorism."

He also said the losers would help the new government develop programs to improve education, health, and the rights of women and minorities as well as developing a broad-based foreign policy.

"Relations with Western countries should have the support and sanction of the people of Pakistan," Hussain said.

For their part, leaders of Bhutto's party were holding closed-door strategy sessions over the weekend, discussing their legislative program and preparing for coalition talks with the Pakistan Muslim League-N, headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.