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IN THE NEWS - Pakistani Lawmakers to Elect New President on September 6

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Lawmakers in Pakistan will elect a new president on September sixth. Officials set the date Friday. Presidents are elected by parliament and the assemblies of the four provinces.

President Pervez Musharraf announces his resignation
President Pervez Musharraf announces his resignation

Pervez Musharraf resigned Monday after almost nine years in power. He defended his record, denied any wrongdoing and said he was resigning for the good of the country.

Lawmakers united in recent weeks to force him out. They had threatened to bring impeachment charges against him in parliament.

Who might replace him?

Pakistan People's Party leader Asif Ali Zardari
Pakistan People's Party leader Asif Ali Zardari

One possibility: Asif Ali Zardari, husband of murdered former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He now heads her Pakistan People's Party, which leads the governing coalition.

But one issue that could split the coalition is what to do about more than forty top judges. Mister Musharraf dismissed them late last year during the six weeks when he suspended the constitution.

They include former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. If he gets his job back, he could undo a legal amnesty that Mister Musharraf agreed to last year. That amnesty dismissed corruption charges against Asif Zardari and other leaders of his party.

Yet political leaders have said that the recent deal to unite against the president was based on an agreement to let the judges quickly return.

Nawaz Sharif heads a major party in the coalition. He threatened to withdraw unless the judges got their jobs back by Friday. Now, he has agreed to next Wednesday. Parliament will debate a resolution on the issue starting Monday.

Pervez Musharraf seized power without violence as army chief in nineteen ninety-nine. In June of two thousand one, he appointed himself president.

The United States praised him as an ally in its war on terrorism after the al-Qaida attacks in September of that year. Pakistan had supported the Taliban government that let al-Qaida leaders operate in Afghanistan.

Last November, after lawmakers re-elected him, Mister Musharraf declared emergency rule. He said his actions were needed because of growing Islamic extremism.

Critics said the real reason was because the Supreme Court had questioned the legality of a general as president. He finally resigned from the military, and new judges loyal to him approved his presidency.

Then, in February, his party suffered a big defeat in parliamentary elections.

The United States says Pervez Musharraf has been a friend. But it also says it supports the move to a democratic government in Pakistan and respects the election results.

On Thursday, near Islamabad, two suicide bombers killed more than sixty people outside Pakistan's biggest weapons factory. A Pakistani Taliban spokesman said the attack was in answer to a Pakistani offensive.

For weeks, Pakistani forces have been fighting militants in tribal areas along the Afghan border. Red Cross officials are launching an emergency operation to aid tens of thousands of people displaced by the conflict.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

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