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Pakistan: President Pledges Support To New Government

President Pervez Musharraf (epa) President Pervez Musharraf says that a "democratic era" has begun in Pakistan and that the incoming government will enjoy his "full support," even as the opposition named a candidate to lead a coalition government united against him.

Addressing the Pakistan Day military parade in the capital, Islamabad, Musharraf expressed hope that the government will maintain political peace.

"I hope that these governments will maintain political peace and will work to sustain the fast growth of socioeconomic development in Pakistan, and will continue the struggle against terrorism and extremism with the same force," Musharraf said. "Whatever new government is formed, it will enjoy my full support."

Musharraf, who took power in 1999 in a bloodless coup, quit the military in November. But he retains sweeping presidential powers to sack the parliament and the prime minister.

On March 22, the opposition party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto named its candidate for prime minister, after winning the February 18 general elections.

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) nominated Yousaf Raza Gilani for the post to lead a coalition government with another opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Gilani, a former parliament speaker, told journalists on March 22 that the country is passing through a difficult phase and that he will need the entire nation's cooperation.

He also said the coalition has yet to formalize the government's agenda. "As a coalition government, naturally, we will get it after consultations with all the political parties, they will give the agenda to the nation," Gilani said.

A confirmation vote for Gilani is scheduled for March 24 in parliament, and the prime minister is due to be sworn in by Musharraf the next day.

The new coalition government is expected to try to curb Musharraf's powers. It has vowed to reinstate judges sacked by the president during a state of emergency in November.