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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 16:03 GMT
Pakistan Islamic bloc 'suspended'
By Jill McGivering
BBC News, Islamabad

MMA lawmakers in the NWFP assembly
The dispute has substantially weakened the MMA
Pakistan's alliance of Islamic political parties, the MMA, has been suspended, its president has said.

The move came because of a difference of opinion between the two main groups in the six-party bloc about whether to boycott the forthcoming elections.

The collapse of the alliance could prove a blow to President Pervez Musharraf - who has been supported by the religious bloc in the past.

The alliance is struggling to stay intact - but it seems to be in tatters.

Elections 'unfair'

On Wednesday, its president, Qasi Hussain Ahmed, described the alliance as suspended.

Its two biggest parties disagree about whether to contest the forthcoming elections.

President Musharraf
MMA divisions are good and bad news for President Musharraf

One, the JUI, says it will take part.

But Mr Ahmed, who is the head of the other main party, Jamaat-i-Islami, confirmed that his party will boycott the polls.

The decision was in protest, he said, at the removal of senior judges, the state of emergency and an election commission which it does not consider to be independent.

"We think that these elections are not fair elections," Mr Ahmed said.

"And all the people who are taking [part] in this election, they are not doing the proper thing.

"And these are not people-friendly elections, they should boycott these elections."

Damaging

The JUI, which will take part, wanted to field candidates under the alliance's banner.

That symbol of unity could boost its candidates' chances.

But on Wednesday, Mr Ahmed said this would not be allowed.

Individual parties which took part in the election would have to do so independently, he said.

All this is mixed news for President Musharraf.

He is likely to welcome the decision by the JUI to take part in the elections.

That helps to legitimise the process.

But this apparent collapse of the alliance could prove damaging.

In the past, the religious bloc has supported Mr Musharraf on some key decisions.

Now it is likely to be a much weaker force.

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