[shniad at sfu.ca: [R-G] Army halts inaugural meeting of Pakistan assembly]
ehrbar at econ.utah.edu
Thu Nov 7 21:37:17 MST 2002
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Daily Telegraph 7/11/2002
'Fix' backfires as army halts Pakistan assembly
By Ahmed Rashid in Lahore
Pakistan's military regime last night abruptly postponed the inaugural
meeting of the first parliament since the 1999 coup as an anti-army
coalition of parties looked like forming a government.
"The government is considering the proposal of some political parties to
postpone the national assembly's inaugural session," Gen Pervaiz Musharraf
was quoted on state-run television as telling a cabinet meeting yesterday.
"A decision in this regard will be taken in the best interests of
Three years after the military seized power, the country was expected to
return to a semblance of democracy tomorrow when the 342-seat National
Assembly was scheduled to meet and choose a new prime minister. The military
has set no new date for the assembly to meet.
On Tuesday night, after Gen Musharraf had conferred with his generals,
several leading politicians close to the army began to call for a
postponement of the assembly. It is believed that the army had asked the
politicians to do so in order to avoid a debacle.
The Oct 11 elections, which most international observers say were rigged by
the military regime, produced a hung parliament.
The army had attempted to create a parliament that was unable to question
its domination of the political scene. But the scheme backfired.
The assembly broadly divides into the pro-army Pakistan Muslim League
(Quaid-e-Azam) or PML-Q and its allies and an anti-army coalition of
This coalition includes an alliance of six Islamic parties and the secular
Pakistan People's Party and another faction of the Pakistan Muslim League
led by two former prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who are
both in exile.
The coalitions are running neck and neck, with neither being able to muster
The army's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) has been trying to give the
PML-Q and its candidate for prime minister - the Baloch politician Zafrullah
Khan Jamali - a workable majority before the assembly is summoned. The
postponement is a result of the ISI's failure to secure Jamali a majority.ñ
Over the past few days there have been conflicting claims. On Monday, the
PML-Q said it had a majority but the next day the opposition coalition made
the same claim.
Politicians are having endless meetings in Islamabad hotels and homes as ISI
officers in civilian clothes linger in the lobby or the street watching who
meets whom. Other parties are having to communicate with their leaders by
telephone because they are in exile abroad.
Gen Musharraf is also in favour of a postponement because opposition parties
refuse to accept amendments to the constitution that would give the army a
permanent and powerful role in running the country.
Gen Musharraf is also under pressure from Washington, which is concerned at
the opposition coalition's candidate for prime minister, Maulana Fazlur
Rehman, an Islamic fundamentalist.
Mr Rehman is a leader of the Muttahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) or six-party
Islamic alliance, which won an unprecedented 59 assembly seats. He is
anti-American, has been an ally of the Taliban and was once sympathetic to
The MMA is almost certain to form governments in the North West Frontier and
Balochistan provinces bordering Afghanistan, arousing fears they will
provide a safe haven for Taliban supporters.
Whoever does become prime minister, political instability is almost certain
to follow because the new government will not have a workable majority, and
the army is determined to keep real power for itself.
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