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Election winners to share power in Pakistan accord

The coalition government vows to restore senior judges who were fired.

Associated Press
Published March 10, 2008


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photo
[AP photo]
A Pakistani lawyer flees as police fire tear gas outside the residence of the country's deposed chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday.

BHURBAN, Pakistan - Pakistan's election winners agreed to form a coalition government Sunday and promised that Parliament would restore senior judges fired last year by President Pervez Musharraf in a bid to secure the U.S.-backed leader's continued rule.

Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, whose government was ousted in Musharraf's 1999 military coup, announced their pact.

"We are bound together in the spirit of democracy," Zardari said. The move has been widely expected since their parties won a Feb. 18 election.

The two parties, both moderate and secular, have vowed to fight Islamic extremism, raising Western hopes of stability and renewed commitment to fighting al-Qaida and Taliban militants. They have also pledged to tackle mounting economic problems.

However, they have devoted much of their energy to finding ways to cut back Musharraf's powers, which include the right to dismiss the government.

Zardari sought to reassure Western backers who supported Musharraf for his help in pursuing al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

"We will not disappoint you," he said, without elaborating on his counterterrorism strategy.

U.S. officials worry that al-Qaida is regrouping in Pakistan.

Zardari said the new Parliament would pass a resolution within 30 days of its formation to reinstate dozens of judges fired by Musharraf last year - a key demand of Sharif.

In a written statement, the two agreed that the judiciary would be restored "as it was on Nov. 2." That was the day before Musharraf declared a state of emergency, suspending the constitution, deploying a large police presence to the streets and firing the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

[Last modified March 9, 2008, 23:21:31]


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