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Pakistani Opposition Parties Pledge Unity


Pakistan's two main opposition parties appear to have won big gains in parliamentary elections and are pledging to form a coalition government. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that even before officials announced a final vote tally, opposition leaders are discussing uniting against President Pervez Musharraf.

The two opposition parties led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of Benazir Bhutto, have been rivals in the past, but both men indicated they want to work together in the new parliament.

Zardari told reporters in Islamabad that the parties plan to restore parliament powers that had been weakened under President Musharraf.

"Mr. Nawaz Sharif is also going to be with us in the parliament," he said. "We intend to take him and we intend to take power from every source and bring it back to the parliament."

He vowed the coalition would not include lawmakers with President Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League party.

Earlier, Sharif said he hopes parties will support a political platform that includes reinstating the Supreme Court justices that Mr. Musharraf deposed in November.

"To accomplish this democratic agenda I think all of us must unite under one platform," he said.

He said those judges will then decide if Mr. Musharraf broke any laws when he ran for re-election as president and later declared emergency rule. But it is unclear if other opposition parties will support reinstating the judges.

Zardari and Sharif are expected to meet Thursday in Islamabad to discuss their parties' plans.

Earlier, the leader of President Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim league conceded defeat, well before the announcement of official results.

Chaudhry Shujat Hussain spoke to reporters after learning he had lost his bid to represent his family's political stronghold in Gujarat.

He says he accepts the results because it is the decision of the people and he says the decision of the people is always right. He says his party is ready to accept its role as the new opposition.

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