Pakistan's coalition looks for new president

One day after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf resigned, the ruling coalition government set about on Tuesday to find a replacement and settle differences.


Leaders of Pakistan's ruling coalition were to meet later Tuesday to discuss a replacement for President Pervez Musharraf and the fate of dozens of deposed judges, a party spokesman said.

The meeting comes a day after key US ally Musharraf resigned in the face of impeachment charges, nine years after he seized power of the nuclear-armed nation in a military coup.

"The leaders will discuss the post-Musharraf resignation issues, including the election to the presidency, the restoration of judges and the political situation," Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for the party of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, told AFP.

Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party is the biggest in the coalition, followed by the Pakistan Muslim League-N of 1990s prime minister Nawaz Sharif and a clutch of ethnic and religious parties.

The meeting will take place at the Islamabad residence of Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower, Babar said.

Senate chairman Mohammedmian Soomro took over as acting president on Monday and will hold the office until the election of a new head of the state.

"The election of a new president must take place within 30 days of the post being vacated," election commission spokesman Kanwar Dilshad told AFP.

Officials say the coalition is considering a candidate from one of Pakistan's smaller provinces, including Mehmud Khan Achakzai from southwestern Baluchistan province, and Aftab Shoban Mirani from southern Sindh province.

It could also opt for a female candidate including the speaker of the national assembly, or lower house of parliament, Fehmida Mirza, or Zardari's sister Faryal Talpur, the officials added.

Separately, law minister Farooq Naik said the coalition was likely to decide the future of judges sacked by Musharraf under a state of emergency in November in order to push through his re-election as president.

"The issue of judges is likely to be resolved today," Naik said.

Zardari and Sharif agreed in May to restore the judges, including former chief justice and anti-Musharraf icon Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, but have failed to do so.

Information Minister Sherry Rehman however said that the meeting was unlikely to reach any final conclusions.

"Important political issues will be discussed by coalition partners. I cannot say final decisions will be announced today. No decision will be taken in haste," she told reporters.

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