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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 12:57 GMT
Uncertainty hangs over Pakistan assembly
Maulana Fazlur Rehman (L) and Qazi Hussain Ahmed (R) meeting in Islamabad
Maulana Fazlur Rehman (L) and Qazi Hussain Ahmed (R)

More than three weeks after the parliamentary elections in Pakistan, none of the political groups has been able to achieve the majority needed to form a government.

A pro-government faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, the PML-Q, as well as the group of former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, is making separate efforts to form a stable coalition.

But there is a strong possibility that the nominee of the six-party Islamic Alliance, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, may emerge from third place to become the next prime minister.

Benazir Bhutto
Ms Bhutto may back Mr Rehman
The international concerns about the gains made by the religious parties in last month's elections and the warning by the leaders to close down the American bases in the country is not the main issue dominating the government agenda in Pakistan.

In a hung parliament, the real issue facing a future coalition is the controversy over the role of the powerful military once a civilian government is installed.

National security council

Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf has already declared he would like to remain the country's president and the chief of the army for another five years.

Besides the amendments he has made in the constitution, there have been calls for the setting up of a military-dominated national security council to oversee the performance of an elected parliament.

The pro-Musharraf group supports such a role for the military.

If they succeed in forming the government, their nominee Zafarullah Jamali will be the prime minister.

But Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and the religious groups are strongly opposed to an institutionalised role for the military.

Despite their fundamental differences on matters of foreign policy and social reforms they are close to an agreement to block President Musharraf's constitutional package.

There is a strong possibility Ms Bhutto's party may withdraw its claim to form a government and instead support the religious party's nominee Maulana Fazlur Rehman to be the next prime minister.

Such an alliance will have an edge over the pro-Musharraf groups and with the support of a few floating votes it can form a government.

But the situation is so fluid that a clear picture may not emerge until Friday, when the first session of the National Assembly is to take place.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

02 Nov 02 | South Asia
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09 Oct 02 | South Asia
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