They threaten to take to the streets over his plan to remain army chief In a rare display of unity, Pakistan's opposition parties have vowed to launch a nationwide protest aimed at ousting President Pervez Musharraf and his military-controlled regime after Ramadan. The biggest breach between the president and the opposition was caused by the passage of a controversial bill last week that allows General Musharraf to simultaneously hold the offices of president and army chief beyond December 31. Outnumbered by pro-Musharraf lawmakers in the parliament, the opposition appears to have no option but confrontation, and there is a very real danger that it may eventually take the conflict into the streets after Ramadan ends on November 13 or 14. 'We wanted to keep our democratic struggle within the parliament, but we have been forced to go to the people', said Shah Mehmood Qureshi, from former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP). The anti-Musharraf theme has rapidly gained ground among the country's divergent political groups with the result that the two mainstream political parties - the PPP and the Muslim League - have finally decided to link up with the religious alliance. Political pundits believe the coming months will provide a tough test for General Musharraf's statesmanship with the most serious challenge from the opposition since he seized power in a 1999 bloodless coup. 'There is real possibility of a showdown if the opposition does not get its demands met through democratic means,' said Irshad Ahmed Haqqani, a leading political columnist and analyst. Amid the growing prospects of agitation, it is not yet clear how General Musharraf will respond. He recently dropped hints that he may use force to thwart the opposition's plans of organising mass rallies. But things would really turn tricky for him if the opposition resorts to violence. 'Any effort to block agitation with force would end in anarchy and may lead the country to a civil war-like situation', Mr Haqqani warned. Another worrying factor for General Musharraf is that he can not rely too heavily on the ruling coalition. The party is full of political turncoats and some of them are unhappy at not being considered for ministerial slots in the new cabinet. Any hint of a weakening president will be enough for them to join the opposition, thus leaving General Musharraf isolated at a time when he needs their support most.