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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
For and against Musharraf's referendum
General Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf has the support of a number of parties
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By Sajid Iqbal
BBC Urdu service

President Musharraf's planned referendum for 30 April has divided opinion, with opponents saying it is unconstitutional.

Forces opposed to the referendum

It is the first time in Pakistan's recent history that both religious and secular parties find themselves sharing the same political agenda.

They are organised in two camps.

The first is the 15-party Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) headed by the seasoned politician Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan.

The Alliance has already announced plans to hold a public meeting on 27 April 27 at Lahore's Minar-I-Pakistan, the venue selected by General Musharraf to launch his referendum campaign.

Benazir Bhutto
Bhutto, like Sharif, is in exile

Its most important group is the Pakistan People's Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Although she is in exile, the party is very active. It is the only party which has strong organizational structure and following in all the four provinces of the country.

The other ARD party having mass following is the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Although he too is in exile, the PML (N) still enjoys mass following in the middle class.

As many as six major religious parties have united in the Matahida Majlis Aml (United Action Forum) to challenge the government.

It includes both the factions of Jamiat-I-Ulema-I-Islam, Jamiat-I-Ulema-i-Pakistan (Noorani) and Jamat-I-Islami.

Forces supporting the referendum

The Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam), headed by former Punjab Governor Mian Muhammad Azhar, is the most important political party supporting General Musharraf.

It has also an organised structure in most parts of the country.

Nawaz Sharif
Sharif was ousted in the 1999 coup

But its support cannot guarantee General Musharraf a large turnout on 30 April.

Pakistan Awami Tehrik is well-organized and motivated but lacks in polling booth experience. It has been taking part in general elections for the last 12 years but none of its candidates had succeeded in winning a national or provincial assemblies seat.

Former President Farooq Laghari's Millat Party was launched a couple of years ago but has failed to make any impact on the political scene.

A number of other parties are also supporting the president, including the National Awami Party Pakistan of the Ajmal Khattak and Tehrik-I-Astaqlal of Air Marshal (retired) Asghar Khan.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf calls May vote on presidency
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf goes for 'Zia option'
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf poll approved
13 Mar 02 | South Asia
Musharraf warns opposition leaders
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