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Opposition parties may boycott referendum

March 22, 2002

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ISLAMABAD, March 21: The Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, and Majlis-i-Amal, another conglomerate of religio-political parties, may boycott the referendum being mulled by Gen Pervez Musharraf to get himself elected president, informed sources said.

The reports that Gen Musharraf has been seeking advice from his supportive political leadership on referendum has triggered quite a controversy among political circles.

A team of 33 PML-QA leaders had met Gen Musharraf on Wednesday and expressed full support for making the referendum a success, sources told Dawn.

Pakistan Awami Tehrik leaders at their meeting with the president on Thursday appreciated the policies of the Musharraf government and extended support for making Pakistan a truly democratic and modern Islamic state.

They said the president had assured them of the government’s commitment to establish genuine democracy and told them that general elections would be held in October in the light of the Supreme Court decisions.

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf, Awami National Party and Millat Party leaders are likely to meet the president in the next couple of days to extend their support, the sources said.

Thus, while the pro-Musharraf parties, i.e. PML-QA, Tahirul Qadri’s PAT, Farooq Leghari’s Millat Party, the ANP, and Imran Khan’s PTI have already given their consent to the referendum proposal, the opposition parties have expressed their dissent against it.

Dawn asked some senior politicians for their reaction in case the government went for implementation of its referendum plan, and received almost identical replies that it would be resisted on all costs.

All of them disagreed with the proposal as being unconstitutional and said it would trigger another wave of disenchantment among masses and political workers.

Constitutional and legal experts indicated that the move could be challenged in a court of law. Some PML-N leaders said that Majlis-i-Amal was in contact with them and that the alliance had hinted that it might boycott the referendum. Majlis-i-Amal consisted of Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, both factions of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Jamaat-i-Islami, and Jamiat Ahle Hadith.

PML-N chairman Raja Zafrul Haq said the proposal was unconstitutional and unethical, and added that his party cannot endorse it.