By STEPHEN GRAHAM, AP, March 28, 2009
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's president said Saturday his party would help the opposition return to power in a key province, moving to end a political crisis threatening to hobble his U.S.-allied government's efforts against Islamist militants.
In a reminder of the dangers facing the nuclear-armed country, militants rocketed a transportation depot used to ship supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan and the army said troops killed 26 militants near the border.
Pakistan plunged into political turmoil in January that has damaged the standing of President Asif Ali Zardari, a key Western ally against al-Qaida and Taliban militants entrenched in the country's northwest.
It began when the Supreme Court disqualified opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister widely considered Pakistan's most popular politician, as well as his brother Shahbaz Sharif from elected office.
Zardari promptly ousted the government in Punjab province, Pakistan's biggest and wealthiest, which had been led by Shahbaz Sharif, prompting a power struggle that Zardari's party appears to have lost.
After weeks of maneuvering over who would lead the new provincial administration, Zardari said Saturday that his party would back the Sharifs' pick.
"Pakistan has many challenges. What it does not need is a challenge from within its democracy," Zardari said in an address to Parliament. He said his party "will not let down the government in Punjab."
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