Musharraf's Allies Withdraw PM Candidate

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Allies of President Pervez Musharraf said Friday they would withdraw their candidate for Pakistan's prime minister as a "goodwill gesture" to followers of slain leader Benazir Bhutto who now dominate parliament.

The move clears the way for whoever is nominated by Bhutto's party to run for prime minister uncontested.

Bhutto's party routed Musharraf's allies to win the most seats in last month's elections. Her widower and 19-year-old son are expected to announce a candidate this weekend, ahead of a Monday vote in parliament.

Musharraf's allies named their choice for the post, Farooq Sattar, earlier this week. The nomination was largely symbolic since they do not hold a majority in parliament.

The decision to withdraw Sattar's candidacy was made late Friday after meetings with party leaders in London and Karachi, said lawmaker Haider Abbas Rizvi.

"The decision was made as a goodwill gesture and in the larger interest of the country," Rizvi told The Associated Press. He and Sattar are both members of the Mutahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM, a pro-Musharraf group based in southern Pakistan.

"We will support the PPP candidate unconditionally," Rizvi said, referring to Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party.

The move is the biggest indication so far from Musharraf's allies that they are willing to cooperate with a new Pakistani government dominated by their opponents. The new administration will be led by followers of Bhutto, who died in a December suicide attack, and another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in Musharraf's 1999 coup.


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