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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 15:58 GMT
Pakistan parliament put on hold
Left to right: Rahman, former president Leghari and Islamic leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed
Maulana Rahman (left) could be next prime minister
The Pakistani authorities have postponed the opening of parliament amid disagreement between the country's politicians about the shape of the next government.

An announcement by state-run Pakistan TV said that the inaugural session of the National Assembly scheduled for Friday had been postponed for a week.


The government has decided to delay the convening of the first session of the National Assembly by one week

Official statement
It said the decision was made in response to requests by some politicians, and also for administrative reasons.

Two political alliances said on Tuesday they had agreed to join forces and suggest the name of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, a fundamentalist cleric, as possible prime minister.

The haggling followed last month's national elections - the first in Pakistan since General Musharraf took over in a coup three years ago.

The pro-military party that won the most seats, the PML-Q, had wanted Friday's session put back to allow more time for negotiations.

Jostling

The announcement was condemned by politicians opposed to President Pervez Musharraf.

General Musharraf
General Musharraf: Pledged to restore civilian rule
Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, leader of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD), compared the decision to an earlier postponement of the assembly in 1971.

"It is most unfortunate that history is repeating itself for the third time here," he told the BBC.

After weeks of discussion, the ARD said on Tuesday that it and the Islamic MMA alliance had agreed to join forces and put forward a joint candidate for prime minister.

But to add to the confusion, a spokesman for the Pakistan People's Party of former premier Benazir Bhutto, which dominates the ARD, told the BBC there was still no agreement.

Elections were held with the aim of transferring power to a civilian government following the 1999 military coup.

No party won a large enough majority to form a government, and for nearly four weeks the groups which won the most seats have been trying to find coalition partners to put together a new government.

US concerns

Analysts say the choice of a pro-Taleban cleric to head Pakistan's government would test relations with Washington.

The religious parties, who have said they want to close down US bases in Pakistan and introduce an Islamic system, caused widespread shock by coming third in the election.

"We agreed on Maulana Fazlur Rahman's name after an intensive two-hour discussion with our alliance partners on Tuesday," Mr Khan, head of the 15-party ARD, told the BBC.

A spokesman for Mr Rahman confirmed that he had been agreed on by both sides as candidate for premier.

The PPP said after the election that it had little in common with the Islamic alliance.

But BBC correspondent Suzy Price in Islamabad says they seem to have been brought together by their opposition to President Musharraf and the changes he has made to the constitution, giving the military a stronger role.

The pro-Musharraf parties, meanwhile, also say they are trying to put together a coalition government.

They have already announced their nominee for the post of prime minister.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Susannah Price
" The return to civilian rule has now been delayed"
The BBC's Abbas Nasir
"Some of the parties are quite pleased because it gives them more time to form a proper government"
Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

02 Nov 02 | South Asia
04 Nov 02 | South Asia
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