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Pakistani Opposition to Begin Forming Coalition Government


The leaders of Pakistan's two main opposition parties are scheduled to meet Thursday in Islamabad to discuss creating a coalition government that could oust President Pervez Musharraf.

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) emerged victorious over Mr. Musharraf's party in parliamentary elections earlier this week.

President Musharraf says he has no plans to resign and is calling for a "harmonious coalition" after the victory by the opposition parties.

PPP leader Asif Zardari - the husband of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - has said the parties plan to restore parliamentary powers weakened under the Pakistani president. Zardari has already met today with the leader of the secular Awami National Party - a small, likely coalition partner.

Also Thursday, police fired tear gas at some 100 lawyers and arrested six protesters in Karachi calling for the government to reinstate judges who were dismissed when Mr. Musharraf imposed a state of emergency last November.

On Wednesday, a detained Pakistani lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, said the judges must be back on the bench by March 9 - one year from the day when Mr. Musharraf dismissed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.

He warned that more protests will follow if the deadline is not met.

In another development, early election results show that voters in North West Frontier Province have turned away from the hardline Islamist parties that have ruled the province in recent years. The secular Awami National Party and other secular groups are holding a lead in the restive border region with Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.