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Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2008

President called on to step down after rout

February 20, 2008

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— A top opposition leader called Tuesday on President Pervez Musharraf to step aside after his ruling party conceded defeat in parliamentary elections. The vote was also a slap to Islamist parties, which lost control of a province where al-Qaida and Taliban fighters have sought refuge.

With counting from Monday's election nearly complete, the two main opposition parties won a total of 154 of the 268 contested seats, according to the Election Commission.

The pro-Musharraf party trailed with 39 seats, and the group's leader acknowledged the loss.

"We accept the election results, and will sit on opposition benches," Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, told AP Television News. "We are accepting the results with grace and open heart."

Although final official results were not expected until today, opposition parties were confident of victory and began mapping plans for a new government and a possible showdown with Musharraf.

Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister and leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N, recalled statements by Musharraf last year that he would step down only if he lost the support of the Pakistani people.

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