A political “round table” before promised Pakistan polls?


Islamabad : The Pakistan government may convene "a round table" of political parties, using it as a "consultative forum", in time for the general elections that President Pervez Musharraf has promised later this year.

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The idea, still "at embryonic stage", might materialise in the form of a proposal after the current session of parliament, informed sources said. It is seen as "an option to lower the persisting temperature in the political arena", The News reported Tuesday.

It said the idea of a round table conference was being seriously considered in the highest quarters. "It is felt that it will help create an atmosphere conducive to holding general elections."

Important ministers were putting up their proposals for developing a mechanism to facilitate such a "consultative" forum.

The conference is likely to be held under a strictly drawn agenda and it would be convened after ensuring a consensus "so that no political party should use the conference as a tool for political blackmail".

The sources suggested that leaders living in exile could be a source of irritation for the government because Musharraf is resolute in his decision that the two former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif would not be allowed to return to the country before the polls are held.

Their representation in the proposed conference would be a big question mark, the newspaper said.

Besides moves by the exiled leaders to return home in time for the elections, the suspension of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and differences on whether Musharraf could seek a second presidency term from the current legislatures that elected him once in 2002, are major issues confronting Pakistan.

Both are seen as emotive issues and have already intertwined as Musharraf and his government have received much flak at home and abroad for suspending the judge.

The conference schedule would be announced after working out details of the subjects for discussion and finalising the list of participants, the sources said.