The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Volte face by Pak hawks

Islamabad, Oct. 28 (PTI): Abandoning its hardline stance, the alliance of six religious parties said it is willing to accept Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s presidency and promised to be flexible on US troop presence, constitutional changes and Islamic laws.

The Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) nominee for the Prime Minister’s post, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said he is ready to work with Musharraf if he continued as President. “We will practically show that we can work together,” he said in Lahore yesterday, adding that it was necessary to adopt a flexible approach on constitutional amendments and Islamic laws.

Stating that the MMA’s six parties won a popular mandate to review the 29 constitutional amendments imposed by President Musharraf, he said they would take “realities” into account and stressed it was not up to one person to amend the country’s constitution.

“The parliament will analyse which amendments are the need of the hour and will approve them and which are against the democratic spirit and will re-fashion or reject them altogether,” he said.

About expulsion of US troops from Pakistani airbases, Rehman said: “We have made our position very clear, that we can root out terrorism on our own and we do not need anybody’s help... as for whether the Americans stay or leave our airbasses, you should ask them.”

Warning that any government formed without the MMA would not last, Rehman said the religious parties were closer to the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) than the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) on the formation of the government.

He claimed a stable government could be formed only if the PML-QA joined hands with the PPPP or the MMA. If the PML-QA formed the government with smaller parties, the government will not last long enough.

He said it was important that the MMA be given a chance to rule the country so that apprehensions of the western world about Pakistan’s religious forces could be eliminated.

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