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ARD, MMA to prepare agenda for campaign

January 13, 2005

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LAHORE, Jan 12: The Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy and the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal will prepare an agenda based on points of agreement before launching a joint struggle against the government.

This was decided at a meeting of the ARD held under the chairmanship of Makhdoom Amin Fahim at the residence of PML-N leader Beguma Tehmina Daultana here on Wednesday.

ARD Information Secretary Syed Zafar Ali Shah later told a news conference that although the religious alliance had sent positive signals, some ARD components still had some reservations about cooperation with the MMA in view of their earlier role in the adoption of the 17th Amendment.

Mr Shah said a committee would work out common points and then the question of the joint struggle would be taken up. ARD Secretary General Iqbal Zafar Jhagra separately said a four-member committee comprising Raza Rabbani and Dr Safdar Abbasi of the PPP and Senator Ishaq Dar and Ahsan Iqbal of the PML-N would draft a code of conduct which would be approved by all alliance components.

Then the code of conduct would be taken up with the MMA and in case the religious alliance signed it, it would be under obligation not to join hands with the government at any stage and for any purpose.

Some alliance leaders say that in addition to signing the code of conduct the MMA should also give a public assurance that it would not back stab the ARD at any stage.

Others have pointed out that the ARD and the MMA have a yawning gap on the issue of fresh elections, which should be bridged first to enable the two alliances to have a better coordination.

At present, the ARD is of the view that general election should be held during the current year. However, the MMA does not support the demand. When asked about the possibility of ARD lawmakers quitting their assembly seats, he said it was a premature question.

He said the alliance had approved PML-N's Naseer Bhutta as its candidate for NA-127 (Lahore), a seat vacated by PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri. The ARD, he said, would hold its public meeting in Sargodhaon Jan 14, as scheduled. However, the venue has been shifted to Shaheen Chowk.

Heads of the ARD parties would hold informal talks at the residence of Mr Ehsanul Haq Paracha before the public meeting to review the situation. In reply to a question, the ARD information secretary said the alliance had been set up against dictatorship and thus there was no question of any cooperation with what he called "stooges of dictators."

Mr Shah said the participants expressed serious concern over changes to Rules of Business giving unlimited powers to the president and the NA speaker, the deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan and the gang-rape of lady doctor Shazia Khalid.

An MP from Balochistan told the participants that the four-man gang-rape "squad" was allegedly led by an army officer. PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq criticized President Musharraf's pronouncement that he would hold the dual office till 2007.

Nawabzada Mansoor Khan, Jehangir Badar, Qasim Zia, Naveed Chaudhry, Saran jaam Khan, Tehmina Daultana, Khwaja Saad Rafiq, Munir Ahmed Khan, Zaeem Qadri, Mian Asad Muhammad, Mian Javed Lateef, Syed Manzoor Ali Gilani, Syed Munir Hussain Gilani, Amanullah Khan, Naveed Malik and Qazi Abdul Qadeer Khamosh were among the participants.