Today's Paper

Pro-Musharraf, religious parties to explore Govt. formation

ISLAMABAD Nov. 10. Exactly a month after the general elections that had thrown up a fragmented National Assembly, the military regime has hinted that if the political parties fail to come to an agreement on formation of a government, it might declare the election null and void.

The threats appear to have had the desired impact with the pro-Musharraf parties and the alliance of religious parties agreeing this evening on a joint committee on formation of a government. The task of the committee is to work out a consensus on all contentious issues. The two groups issued a joint declaration urging the Government to immediately convene the inaugural session of the National Assembly. The Committee is scheduled to meet here again tomorrow.

Pakistan Interior Minister, Moinuddin Haider, has been quoted as telling reporters in Karachi on Friday that if the political parties did not arrive at a settlement before the National Assembly session then ``making another reference to people might become unavoidable''.

Lt. Gen. (retd.) Haider, a close confidant of the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, is known for his ``shock value'' statements and his hint at the possibility of another election is seen as a threat to political parties to fall in line and agree to form a government on the terms of the military. Controversial amendments made by Gen. Musharraf to the Constitution, including a further period of five years for himself as President and the Chief of Army Staff and formalisation of the role of the Army in governance is one of the major stumbling blocks for the parties in the formation of government.

Inaugural session of the National Assembly, which was originally scheduled to be summoned on November 8, was postponed after the pro-Musharraf parties petitioned the regime seeking more time to negotiate with other groups. The postponement came amidst reports of an agreement among the parties opposed to the Musharraf policies.

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