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Pakistan Opposition Condemns Musharraf's Plans to Stay in Office Past 2007

  • Benjamin Sand

Opposition parties in Pakistan are strongly criticizing President Pervez Musharraf's decision to stay in office beyond 2007, when his current term expires.

Members of the opposition Pakistan People's Party say Mr. Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup, is once again showing his opposition to democracy and the rule of law.

People's Party Senator Sayed Bukhari says Mr. Musharraf does not have a mandate from the people.

"He came into power with the help of the military," Senator Bukhari explained. " He is not in the President's house with the support of the people and he never bothers about that. It is 100 percent unconstitutional."

Pakistan's information minister announced the president's plans Tuesday, saying he believed Parliament would support Mr. Musharraf's decision.

The news is helping unite Pakistan's normally divided political opposition.

At issue is more than just Mr. Musharraf's effort to remain in power. Senator Bukhari says the president's opponents are demanding a complete separation between the country's civilian government and its military.

Since seizing power and becoming president Mr. Musharraf has remained as head of the military, despite a promise to stand down as army chief by the end of 2004.

Senator Sajid Mir says the president's history of broken promises only serves to galvanize the opposition. Any effort to stay in office beyond 2007, he says, will be fiercely contested.

"It is completely unconstitutional and unethical," he said. " The opposition parties won't support him…even if he is not general."

Under President Musharraf Pakistan has become a key ally in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

Washington has praised Mr. Musharraf's efforts to stabilize the country and strengthen its economy.

However, the U.S. government has also urged Mr. Musharraf to maintain his commitment to promised democratic reforms.

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