Musharraf vows to support new Pakistan government


President Pervez Musharraf on Sunday pledged his full support to Pakistan's new coalition government led by his political opponents, who have vowed to take on the embattled US ally.

Musharraf, speaking at a military parade marking Pakistan's national day, hailed the start of what he called a "real democratic era", which has been plagued for months by violence linked to Al Qaeda and Taliban extremists.

"Whichever new government is formed, it will have my full support," Musharraf said, adding that he hoped the new administration would maintain peace, economic growth and vigorously combat terrorism and extremism.

The man set to become Pakistan's new premier -- former parliamentary speaker Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was nominated by the party of slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto -- on Sunday promised to deliver following his party's big election win.

"I can only assume that we are here to deliver, we are not here just to stay for a period," Gilani told reporters outside parliament, where he filed his nomination papers ahead of the premiership election set for Monday.

"Inshallah (God willing) we will deliver and there is a will and there is a hope."

Gilani was named on Saturday by Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) as its candidate for prime minister, more than a month after it won the most seats in general elections.

The party has agreed to form a coalition government with the party of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Musharraf in a coup in 1999, and other smaller groups who trounced the US-backed president's allies in elections.

Party officials said top coalition members including Gilani were set to meet on Sunday ahead of a parliament session on Monday to elect the new prime minister, a vote which Gilani is almost certain to win.

Gilani, 58, a low-key but stalwart aide to Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, on Saturday called for unity among Pakistan's "democratic" parties.

"We have to take all democratic forces along. I will be giving a policy statement and spelling out my priorities on the floor of the house," Gilani told AFP after he was nominated.

"I am thankful to my party leadership for putting their trust in me," Gilani said, adding that he missed the party's "great leader" Bhutto, who was assassinated in a suicide attack at a political rally on December 27.

Gilani spent five years in jail under Musharraf's rule on corruption charges stemming from his time as speaker -- winning admiration from PPP colleagues who said the charges were politically motivated.

Zardari said in a statement announcing the nomination on Saturday: "Yousuf Raza Gilani is not afraid to lead and he knows the way."

Speculation remains however that Gilani will only be a stop-gap premier until Zardari -- who is not an MP -- becomes eligible to stand for the post by contesting a by-election in May.

Gilani was speaker during Bhutto's second term in power from 1993 to 1996 and a minister during her first term from 1988 to 1990.

Meanwhile the former ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q party, which backed Musharraf in the last parliament, on Sunday named Pervez Elahi, a former chief minister, to go up against Gilani in Monday's vote.

A nominee of Musharraf's allies on Saturday quit the race for the premiership in a dramatic about-face, saying he would give "unconditional support to the PPP nominee."

Musharraf is set to swear in the new premier on Tuesday.

The coalition government appears set for a confrontation with Musharraf after vowing to reinstate judges whom the president sacked during a state of emergency in November.

If restored, the judges could overturn Musharraf's re-election as president in a parliamentary vote in October and effectively rule his grip on power illegal. (AFP)