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Secular alliance being explored

April 20, 2007

LAHORE, April 19: Awami National Party president Asfandyar Wali Khan met Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto in Dubai last month and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement has also initiated an ‘informal’ dialogue with the PPP leadership in the country for political cooperation.

If the PPP-MQM talks progress satisfactorily, a meeting between Altaf Hussain and Benazir Bhutto in London may also materialise in not too distant a future.

Sources say the ANP and the PPP are willing to accept Gen Pervez Musharraf as president provided he steps down as the army chief and restores civilian rule. ANP secretary-general Ehsan Wyne confirmed the Dubai meeting between Mr Asfandyar and Ms Bhutto. He said his party had no objection to Ms Bhutto having a dialogue with the military regime for an end to the political stalemate – as long as she does not compromise on the uniform issue. “There is no other way out,” he told Dawn.

Mr Wyne foresaw new political and electoral alliances emerging in place of existing coalitions, including the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy.

“The new alliance may include progressive forces like the ANP, PPP, Pakistan Oppressed Nationalities Movement and even the Muttahida Qaumi Movement,” he said.

According to Mr Wyne, the ANP’s National Working Committee, which is scheduled to meet in Peshawar on April 29, would consider an alliance with the PPP, MQM and nationalist forces.

MNA Farooq Sattar, deputy convener of the MQM Central Coordination Committee, said there had been ‘informal’ discussions between his party and the PPP leadership for political and electoral cooperation.

Talking to Dawn, he said organisations which believed in politically marginalising the religious right and which had a moderate and progressive agenda, must encourage and promote enlightened moderation as advocated by President Gen Musharraf.

“We understand the president’s approach to issues is finding favour with the PPP,” he said. “The PPP, it seems, is willing to hold talks with the regime. We feel that dialogue, and not use of force, is the right path.”