In a major setback to President Pervez Musharraf, the Islamist alliance Muthahida Majlis Amal today rejected his modified constitutional proposals and decided to join the mainstream opposition to agitate for his ouster as army chief.
After a three-hour-long meeting of its Supreme Council on Tuesday night, which raised speculation that the alliance could be headed for a split over the issue of opposing Musharraf's package, the MMA announced early on Wednesday that it had rejected the proposal and decided to call off all future talks with the government.
Its leaders told reporters that a three-member MMA delegation would call on Prime Minister Mri Zafarrullah Khan Jamali to convey MMA's decision to reject the package and inform him about its resolve to insist that Musharraf quit as the army chief by December 2004.
Musharraf is currently in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
The modified package, under which Musharraf "agreed in principle" to cut down his powers and submit his controversial Legal Framework Order for the approval of the Parliament, was presented to MMA on September 19 after it was approved by the Cabinet.
MMA spokesman Liaqat Baluch said religious parties rejected the package as they felt that their demands about the President's army uniform, his discretionary powers and the retirement age of judges were altogether ignored in the official draft proposals.
The MMA also wants Musharraf to get elected as President by Parliament and assemblies and not by seeking vote of confidence as proposed by the government package. Baluch said there could be no compromise on the key issues on which it had engaged itself in dialogue for ten months.
MMA leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman said the alliance would no longer engage itself in talks with the government as it had backed out of the agreed formula prepared during the Lahore talks. He said the alliance would not wait for a response to its proposals from the government side and concentrate on a countrywide mass-contact drive.
The MMA decision followed its leaders taking part in a joint hunger strike organised by mainstream opposition parties outside the Parliament on Tuesday questioning the legality of Musharraf to address the UNGA as President of Pakistan.
Displaying banners inscribed with slogans such as 'General Musharraf is unelected and unconstitutional president and has no right to address the UNGA', the opposition leaders condemned him for going abroad and ignoring Jamali, the elected prime minister.
MMA and leaders of Alliance for Restoration of Democracy said Musharraf was a 'disputed person' as he was not an elected president and hence not competent to represent the country at any international forum.