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Musharraf faces call to resign

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — The ruling party of Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf admitted defeat in parliamentary elections Tuesday, and one senior opposition leader said it was now time for the president to step down.

Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted from power in Musharraf’s bloodless coup in 1999, was one of the winners from Monday’s election.

His Pakistan Muslim League-N party was coming second having won 66 seats, with only a few results still to be confirmed, according to the private GEO TV station.

Only the Pakistan People’s Party of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in the run-up to the elections, won more national assembly seat — 87 so far.

The Musharraf-allied Pakistan Muslim League-Q won 38 seats in the preliminary results. Ten national assembly results were outstanding at 1930 GMT Tuesday.

Sharif said: Musharraf doesn’t understand this decision. He has closed his eyes. He has said before that he would go when the people want him to do so and now the people have given their verdict.

Sharif, like Bhutto, returned from exile late last year to compete in the elections.

The two big opposition parties — if they form a coalition and get the support of smaller groups and independent candidates — could gain the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to impeach Musharraf.

Thousands of ecstatic Pakistanis, waving placards and singing, took to the streets Tuesday as the results began trickling in. Celebrations as the results come in

All the King’s Men, Gone! blared the headline in the English-language The Daily Times. Heavyweights knocked out, proclaimed the newspaper, Dawn.

We concede and congratulate the people who have won the elections, Mushahid Syed Hussain, general secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, told CNN.

As pressure increases on Musharraf to relinquish his tight grip on power, there is the risk of more turmoil in the nuclear-armed country, which has witnessed a surge in violent attacks — including Bhutto’s assassination in recent months.

The voting in the country’s first general elections in six years ended with no overt signs of tampering and relatively little violence. Twenty-three people were killed across the nation in vote-related incident, according to a tally by CNN.

National voter turnout for the parliamentary race exceeded expectations with 45.69 percent of the 81 million eligible voters casting ballots, the election commission told CNN.

I think it’s a very dramatic statement about what happens when people can vote, former U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry, who has been observing the elections, told CNN from Islamabad.

Musharraf has said that he will accept the outcome of the elections with grace and promises to work with the new government.

Whoever is the prime minister, I will work with that person in a reconciliatory mode, the former general, who seized power in a 1999 coup, told reporters. We should end the confrontationist politics. Let’s enter into a conciliatory politics.

The elections are crucial from an American standpoint. Washington has poured billions of dollars in aid toward Musharraf’s government, an ally in its battle against the al Qaeda terrorist network and the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Bush administration’s priority for Pakistan is to deprive al Qaeda of the sanctuary it has established along the country’s rugged border with Afghanistan, and to reverse the momentum the Taliban has achieved in attacks on both sides of the border.

But given that many Pakistanis disapprove of the way Musharraf has carried out his end of the war on terror — and used it as a crutch to explain away many of his unpopular moves — analysts say it’s unlikely a new government will move as aggressively on counterterrorism issues as the U.S. would like.

For the average Pakistani, Musharraf’s unpopularity has to do with factors that are closer to home: shortage of essential food items, power cuts, and a skyrocketing inflation.
Musharraf faces call to resign – found here.

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February 19, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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