For the first time since the parliamentary elections last month, Pakistan’s new parliament has convened. The parties of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, another prime minister, have agreed to form a coalition against Pervez Musharraf.
On February 18, polls delivered a huge blow to president Musharraf parliamentary allies, making his position more precarious.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which won the most seats in the election, is expected to nominate a prime minister this week. The chairman of Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has confirmed to the BBC that the prime minister has been chosen from the PPP, but he didn’t say who it was. Nawaz’s party has agreed to take posts in the cabinet, like the PPP has demanded.
Even though he has a great influence in the party, Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari is not eligible to become prime minister. He told reporters in the parliament building “This is the last day of dictatorship”. And added “this is our first step. We have conveyed a message to the world community to support democracy which defeats dictatorship.”
But the coalition of the two parties and their smaller allies still lack the two-thirds majority required if they want to impeach president Musharraf. However they have enough support to undermine his authority in parliament. Even though it’s unclear how far the opposition will go, the leaders have threatened to curtail the president’s powers, like his ability to dissolve the assemblies and dismiss the prime minister.
The new government’s biggest concern will probably be an Islamic insurgency, that, in the last few weeks, has claimed scores of lives in bomb attacks. And as nuclear-armed Pakistan has been a key US ally in the “war on terror”, Washington hopes that the new government will continue to work in the same way.