Leader in Incoming Pakistani Government Urges Musharraf to Quit

A leader in Pakistan's new government called Sunday for President Pervez Musharraf to quit, a day after the new prime minister vowed to move away from the U.S.-backed leader's strong-arm tactics against Islamic militants.

"The sooner he resigns the better it is for himself and for the democratic process," said Ahsan Iqbal, a lawmaker from the Pakistan Muslim League-N party who is tipped to become education minister in the new Cabinet.

"On Feb. 18 people have voted against his policies and have voted for change," Iqbal said.

Opposition parties swept last month's parliamentary elections amid resentment over Musharraf's increasingly authoritarian rule, Pakistan's mounting economic problems and a surge in militant attacks.

The defeat has triggered calls for Musharraf — a former army chief who seized power in a military coup eight years ago — to resign.

Parliament elected Yousaf Raza Gilani, a loyalist of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, as prime minister last week. On Monday, Musharraf was expected to swear in more than 20 members of the new Cabinet.

In his inaugural speech Saturday, Gilani delivered a rebuke over Musharraf's military tactics in the lawless tribal belt along the Afghan border where Al Qaeda and Taliban militants operate.

Gilani said combating terrorism was the government's No. 1 priority, but he also said he was willing to talk to militants who are ready to lay down their arms and "join the path of peace."

Expanding education and development in the impoverished region would be a "key pillar" of the government's strategy against the militants, he said.

The United States has criticized past efforts to reach out to militants, saying it has allowed hard-liners to tighten their grip along the border.

Many Pakistanis believe Musharraf's reliance on large-scale army operations, as well as his tacit approval of U.S. airstrikes inside Pakistan, have endangered civilians and produced a spike in domestic terrorism.