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Pakistani Opposition Parties Agree on Ruling Coalition

The leaders of Pakistan's two main opposition parties have agreed to form a coalition in the national assembly that will control a majority of seats. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports the opposition leaders say they have come to an agreement on the crucial issue of reinstating the Supreme Court that Mr. Musharraf dismissed in November.

At a joint news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan People's Party leader Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-N told reporters the two parties would work together on what they called a government of national consensus.

Zardari said they are focused on strengthening Pakistan's democracy.

"We intend to be together in the parliament," he said. "We have, insha'allah, a future of democracy in our grasp. We will strengthen the parliament, we will make a stronger Pakistan."

While the two parties had campaigned on a similar agenda that criticized President Pervez Musharraf and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q party, analysts said there were indications they had different views on the issue of reinstating senior judges dismissed by Mr. Musharraf in November.

Nawaz Sharif read reporters a prepared statement on the position that both parties have agreed to.

"In principle there is no disagreement on the restoration of the judiciary. We will work out the modalities in the parliament," he said.

Lawyers who demonstrated in major cities in Pakistan had demanded the immediate reinstatement of the dismissed senior judges. Instead, it appears the parties will wait until they take control of parliament in the coming weeks before taking up the issue.

The judges' dismissals have been the central political issue for Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif. Earlier Thursday, he addressed hundreds of supporters outside the home of the fired Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudry, saying President Musharraf's dismissal of the Supreme Court was illegal.

Chaudry has been under house arrest since November.

The PPP's Zardari also said the two parties are focused on building a broad coalition in parliament.

'We are trying to come up with a national consensus government with all political forces in and outside of the parliament," said Zardari.

The coalition brings the two parties closer to gaining a two-thirds majority in parliament. The super-majority is needed if the parties try to impeach President Musharraf.