Pakistan: Opposition calls no-confidence vote


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The opposition coalition Monday scheduled a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as her party's major parliamentary ally announced it was withdrawing its support of her government.

An opposition spokesman said 86 members of the National Assembly signed a no-confidence motion and presented it to the speaker of the lower house of Parliament. Under the constitution, the vote must be taken within seven days.


The spokesman, Zahid Safraz, said the opposition had the support of 129 of the 237 Assembly members, including some legislators from Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. 'We have come to the conclusionthat PPP rule will harm the country,' he said.

Bhutto, 36, daughter of hanged Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, took office in December after the first fully democratic elections in Pakistan in 11 years, becoming the first woman leader of a Moslem nation.


But her Pakistan People's Party now has only 114 seats in the National Assembly and must rely on the support of smaller parties and independents in order to govern.

A spokesman for Bhutto said in reaction to the opposition moves that 'the prime minister is confident of her position. She is happy the total strength of the opposition threat has been revealed. We are happy that the cat is out of the bag.'

The PPP's major ally in Parliament, the Mohajir Quami Movement, which represents the descendants of Indian immigrants, announced its 14 members would henceforth vote with the opposition.

'Our agreement with the PPP is now void because the PPP has failed to improve the situation in Sind and safeguard the interests off the Mohajirs,' said Imran Farooq, parliamentary leader of the MQM.

Hundreds of people have died in southern Sind Province in the past few years in violence involving the Mohajirs and other ethnic groups. The unrest has continued unabated since the PPP government came to power.

In the Sind capital of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, Mohajirs celebrating the breakup of the MQM-PPP accord injured two people in indiscriminate gunfire, police said. MQM and PPP supporters also exchanged gunfire in several areas of the city, but no further casualties were reported, according to police.


Earlier Monday, MQM supporters in Karachi enraged by the kidnapping of a Mohajir by a rival ethnic group attacked a group of police, killing two. Authorities imposed curfews and deployed troops in three areas of the city to restore order.

Farooq said the MQM signed a political cooperation agreement last month with the Islamic Democratic Alliance, the major opposition grouping founded by associates of the late President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.

Zia was killed in a mysterious plane crashed on Aug. 17, 1988, after ruling Pakistan for 11 years, eight of them as head of a martial law government.

Bhutto, despite growing popularity overseas, has had to face tough domestic criticism recently for the alleged lack of direction of her government and counter a growing challenge to her rule from IDA leader Nawaz Sharif, who is also chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province.

She also has been embroiled in disputes with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan over which of them had the right to retire senior military officers and to appoint Supreme Court judges.

In a further blow to the government, five independent members of the semi-autonomous Tribal Areas near the Afghan border also announced they were withdrawing their support for the PPP.


A spokesman for the five charged at a news conference in the northeastern city of Lahore the PPP was 'ignoring the problems of the country' and 'was not extending its full support' to the Moslem resistance battling the communist regime in neighboring Afghanistan.

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