LAHORE, Feb 16: Former foreign minister Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali has stressed the need for developing a national consensus to steer the country out of "state crisis".

He was talking to reporters after announcing his decision to join the PPP in the presence of party's senior vice-chairman and other central leaders here on Monday.

Accusing Gen Pervez Musharraf of being arrogant, he said the army ruler under the influence of his hatred against certain politicians was ignoring the crisis.

Fearing action against Pakistan on the nuclear issue, he said mishandling of the scientists' affair had given certain powers an opportunity to prepare a case against it. However, he said Gen Musharraf's ties with US President George Bush may delay the action.

He urged Gen Musharraf to unite all nationalist parties on a single platform to face the crisis as it was the need of the hour, otherwise Islamabad would be forced to roll back its nuclear programme.

He criticized the way the scientists were produced before the nation and made to "confess" their mistake, saying it had hurt the feelings of the masses. He alleged the scientists were made a scapegoat to save some senior officers in uniform.

He said he decided to join the PPP after consulting his family and friends for two months. "I won't demand party ticket, office or a slot in cabinet as the only objective of my joining the PPP is to work for the national interests," he said.

ARD chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim endorsed Sardar Assef's views on the nuclear issue, and said it was the duty of every Pakistani to come forward and stop the rulers from giving in before world powers on every issue.

He said the call for a march on Islamabad would be given after analyzing the situation and consulting all friends, and no step would be taken in haste. He denied reports that the PPP was taking a solo flight through protest camps as other constituents of the ARD had differences with it.

Asked if the MMA would also be invited for joining ARD's drive against Gen Musharraf, he said: "We will do our job with commitment." Asked if the ARD would give a call for court arrests, he said no stone would be left unturned in the movement against the army ruler, however, any decision in this respect would be made public at an appropriate time.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Aftab Shaaban Merani, Khalid Kharal, Naveed Chaudhry, Munir Ahmad Khan, Munawwar Anjum and MNA Chaudhry Manzoor were also present on the occasion.

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