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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Islamists row over beardless nominee
Qazi Hussein Ahmed
Islamic parties did surprisingly well in elections
Divisions have emerged in Pakistan's hardline Islamic alliance following its unprecedented success in recent general elections.

One of the parties in the group has attacked the choice of Akram Khan Durrani as nominee for chief minister of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) because he lacks a beard.


Durrani is an honest Muslim and has started growing a beard

Party spokesman
A statement issued by the Jamaat-e-Islami said the central council of the alliance had not been consulted, and stressed that the chief minister's appearance should comply with Islamic Shariah law.

Under orthodox interpretations of Shariah, men are expected to grow beards.

Wednesday's statement is being seen as the first sign of differences in the alliance over the distribution of government posts.

After campaigning with a strong anti-US message, the Islamic parties surprised everyone by their success.

They are now the third biggest political force in Pakistan following elections in which no party won overall control in the national assembly.

'Honest Muslim'

Akram Khan Durrani
Durrani: Growing a beard
According to a power-sharing arrangement worked out by the five-party Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA, the top job is to be given to the party with the largest number of seats.

Mr Durrani belongs to the Jamiat-Ulema-Islam (Fazal) group which won the most seats in NWFP.

It called the statement "unfortunate".

"Durrani is an honest Muslim and has started growing a beard," a spokesman told the AFP news agency.

A final decision on who will be MMA choice for chief minister is expected on Thursday, when its central council meets in Islamabad.

Test

Observers believe the real test of the alliance will be when its members sit down to distribute the different provincial ministries among themselves.

They are poised to form two provincial governments and are expected to play a key role in the formation of the new federal government in Pakistan.

The religious parties increased their representation from two to 45 in the national assembly and are being wooed by the pro-government PML (Q) and Benazir Bhutto's PPP, the two parties which won more seats.

The MMA was quick to voice its support for the Taleban, soon after poll results were announced.

This led to fears in some quarters that the hunt for al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan could be affected.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

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See also:

10 Oct 02 | South Asia
16 Oct 02 | Business
16 Oct 02 | South Asia
09 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
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