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Zardari is PPP's Presidential candidate
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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August 23, 2008 22:17 IST

Heeding his party's wishes, Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday decided to contest the September 6 Presidential election, but the ruling coalition appeared to be heading for a deeper crisis over the issue of reinstatement of judges sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf [Images].

Sharif acts tough, wants sacked judges restored by Monday

"Mr Asif Zardari has accepted to contest the election for the office of president of Pakistan after the party unanimously drafted him to do so," PPP deputy secretary general Raza Rabbani told reporters.

Pakistan's ruling PPP leaders had on Friday overwhelmingly backed Zardari for the post of President.

Pakistan presidential polls on September 6

However, the crisis in the government, triggered by the second largest partner of the coalition Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif threatening to pull out over the judges issue, appeared to have deepened with Sharif cutting short the deadline from Wednesday.

 Asked about the PML-N's insistence on the restoration of the judges, Rabbani evaded a direct reply and said it was difficult to set deadlines for such a matter.

Sharif threatens to pull out of Pakistan coalition

Rabbani described the restoration of the deposed judges as a 'sensitive legal issue' and asserted that the PPP would fulfill all its promises and find solutions to the problem.

He said the judges will be restored but added that a timeframe would be announced at a later date.

Musharraf quits as Pakistan president

Reacting to the PPP's announcement, PML-N spokesman Siddique-ul-Farooq said Zardari could not be a neutral President as he was the leader of a political party.

The PML-N 's future course of action would be decided at a meeting of its parliamentary party and central working committee convened by Sharif on Monday, Farooq said.

'Hold Musharraf accountable for his crimes'

Earlier in the day, Sharif remained non-committal on supporting Zardari in the presidential polls. He linked the issue to the restoration of the deposed judges by the PPP-led government by Monday.

The former premier also said that an agreement between the PPP and PML-N stated that the PPP could nominate a candidate for the presidential election only if the President's sweeping powers were scrapped through a constitutional amendment.

Next Pakistan President from PPP, says Bilawal Bhutto

If these powers were not repealed, the agreement stated that a non-partisan national figure who is removed from party politics should be nominated for the President's post, Sharif said.

After announcing Zardari's candidature, Rabbani thanked the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement for supporting the PPP's candidate in the presidential polls. He said the party would decide on a person to succeed Zardari as the party chief after the election.

Soomro takes over as acting president

Rabbani also said the ruling coalition will remain intact as Pakistan needs stability.

Musharraf resigned on August 18, necessitating the holding of presidential polls to choose his successor within 30 days.

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