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Pakistan No-Confidence Vote Fails - 2003-06-28


Pakistan's opposition has failed to push through a no-confidence motion against the speaker of the National Assembly. But opposition parties are still determined to fight what they say is President Pervez Musharraf's illegal manipulation of Pakistani law.

Opposition members of Pakistan's National Assembly failed to recall the legislature's speaker Saturday, in a largely symbolic no-confidence motion, meant as a protest against President Musharraf.

The opposition had sought the removal of the speaker, who they say violated his neutrality as an officer of parliament by supporting constitutional changes pushed through by the president last year. But when the ruling party, which has a majority in the body, refused to vote on the issue, the opposition also boycotted the vote. This caused the measure to be dropped.

The constitutional changes, known as the Legal Framework Order, or LFO, give Mr. Musharraf wide-ranging powers, including the right to dismiss parliament.

Opposition members say the changes are illegal, as they were not approved by the legislature. President Musharraf and his supporters contend that, since the members of parliament were elected under the LFO, they are bound by it.

The opposition alliance that brought the motion includes a wide array of parties, from the centrist Pakistan People's Party to a coalition of religious fundamentalist parties.

Opposition leaders say they still have other ways to show their anger at Mr. Musharraf's constitutional amendments.

Senator Raza Rabbani, the deputy secretary general of the opposition Pakistan People's Party, says demonstrations are one option.

"As far as the question of street protests is concerned, the combined opposition and the individual parties have already started to mobilize public opinion," he said.

The ruling party has recently raised the possibility of restarting stalled talks on the LFO amendments. But Senator Rabbani is pessimistic, given the government's position.

"The prime minister [Zafarullah Jamali] has gone on record to have said that the LFO is a part of the Constitution," said Senator Rabbani. "Now if that is the position that he is going to take, then I do not see any meaningful dialogue emerging.

President Musharraf took power in a bloodless military coup in October 1999.

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