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Pak parties flay Jamali's 'forced' resignation

Our Political Bureau  |  New Delhi 

Although Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali's resignation yesterday has had no effect on India-Pakistan talks, the Indian assessment is that repeated assaults on the leadership of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) will only add to the internal political instability in Pakistan, which could cast its shadow on relations with India later.
Jamali stepped down as prime minister, dissolved his Cabinet and nominated PML chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as his interim successor. Hussain was Jamali's rival for prime ministership during the contest that was won by Jamali.
Citing government sources, Pak newspapers speculated that Hussain was probably only warming the seat for US-educated Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz who would wait to get elected to the Lower House (he is a member of the Upper House and for that reason, barred from prime ministership) before taking up the post.
But just to assert that he would be no pushover, Hussain said his election to the National Assembly and later as the Prime Minister was "not an interim appointment" but in keeping with the Constitution.
Administrative inefficiency is considered the reason for Jamali's removal. The political establishment in Pakistan believes that an inertia had gripped the Jamali government. Jamali is from Balochistan, therefore outside the pale of the traditional Punjabi ruling class of Pakistan.
Several opposition parties condemned what they said was the forced resignation of Jamali and termed it a humiliation for democracy.
They said Gen Pervez Musharraf had taken hostage the whole country and its institutions and regretted that the rulers were busy in power politics while the law and order situation was deteriorating. Opposition parties cited the recent murder of PML (Nawaz) leader Binyameen Rizvi on a busy road in Lahore as evidence.
That Aziz was among those considered close to Gen Musharraf was clear when it was Aziz, not Jamali who accompanied President Musharraf to Washington. Aziz also presented a forward looking budget last month, which predicted optimistic levels of growth for the Pakistan economy.
Yesterday, Aziz was quoted by newspapers as saying he was committed to achieving the goals of development and public welfare. He said Pakistan needed to move forward and achieve the status of a developed and prosperous nation of the world.
The new prime minister's immediate challenge will be to confront the right wing Islamic religious dispensation that is currently in power in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan and has announced several fundamentalist measures including setting up a vice and virtue department that will run parallel to the police and ensure an Islamic administration.
Gen Musharraf has issued strict warnings to the government in the NWFP and could begin a crackdown once the new dispensation is in place.

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First Published: Mon, June 28 2004. 00:00 IST
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