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Pakistan Opposition Submits No Confidence Measure Targeting Prime Minister


Opposition leaders in Pakistan have introduced a no-confidence measure against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. The measure faces almost sure defeat but is the product of a new political coalition opposed to President Pervez Musharraf and his allies.

More than a dozen different opposition politicians submitted the no-confidence measure to the Parliament Wednesday afternoon.

The 18-page bill focuses primarily on Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's handling of the national economy.

Aitzaz Ahsen, senior member of the Pakistan People's Party, says Mr. Aziz mismanaged the government's efforts to sell off state-owned businesses.

And, he accuses the prime minister of making enormous profits on his own business deals and investing the money in foreign banks.

"The prime minister has shown scant love and commitment to Pakistan," he said. "If he himself has no confidence in a country and an economy over which he himself presides and controls, why should the country as represented by this house have confidence in him?"

A vote on the motion will not occur until next week and even its supporters admit the measure probably will not secure the support it needs to pass.

Nevertheless, political analysts here say the debate itself could pose a significant challenge for Mr. Aziz and his chief political patron, President Pervez Musharraf.

Political columnist Ayaz Amir says the measure has, at least temporarily, unified Pakistan's main religious opposition with the country's more moderate liberal parties.

"The importance will be if all the opposition parties take part and vote against the government. That will be a signal of the opposition coming together," he said.

If they do stick together, he says that President Musharraf's ruling coalition could face a more significant challenge than previously expected in next year's presidential elections.

However, cracks in the opposition coalition have already started to emerge. The no-confidence measure follows a week of fractious debate in Parliament over efforts to expand legal protections for women in Pakistan.

The bill, backed by President Musharraf, would reform elements of the country's conservative religious laws.

The opposition religious parties refused to even review the legislation and destroyed copies of the new bill during public protests.

However, other members of the opposition, including Ahsen's Pakistan People's Party, have supported the changes.