Musharraf revives Articles on Provincial Assemblies

ISLAMABAD Nov. 24. Having ensured a civilian set-up at the national level that supports his policies, the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, has revived Articles in the Constitution enabling the Governors of four provinces to summon the State Assemblies.

The October 10 general elections were held not only to elect members for the National Assembly but also for the four provincial Assemblies. The formation of Government was delayed by over five weeks as no party or combination of parties had a simple majority.

Ultimately, the rebel Muslim League with the patronage of the military regime managed the numbers with the help of independents, smaller groups and the dissident group in the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

As a result of Gen. Musharraf's decision not to revive the Articles, the inaugural session of provincial Assemblies of Punjab and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) are scheduled tomorrow.

The first sessions of the Baluchistan and Sindh Assemblies are likely on November 28.

On November 17, while partially restoring the 1973 Constitution, suspended on October 12, 1999 in the wake of the military takeover, Gen. Musharraf had not revived several articles, including those pertaining to revival of provincial Assemblies.

Opposition parties had accused him of trying to `manipulate' the Government formation at the national and provincial levels by resorting to partial restoration of the Constitution.

There is no explanation as to why the Governors of Sindh and Baluchistan have chosen to call the inaugural session on November 28 when their counterparts in Punjab and NWFP have summoned the provincial Assemblies tomorrow.

One reason could be that in Punjab and the NWFP there is no difficulty in Government formation.

While the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), better known as King's Party, has managed to reach the simple majority mark with the help of independents in the Punjab Assembly, in the NWFP the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal would form the Government with almost two-thirds majority.

But the question being asked by independent observers and political parties is whether it should be the Governor's concern as to who is or who is not in a position to form a Government.

According to the schedule, the newly-elected members in Punjab and NWFP will take oath on the first day of the first session on November 25.

Nomination papers for the office of Speakers and Deputy Speakers will be filed on November 26 and election will be held the next day.

Nomination papers for the office of the Leaders of the House in Punjab and the NWFP will be filed on November 28 and voting will be held the next day.

The former Speaker of Punjab and a member of the powerful Chaudhary clan, Pervez Ellahi, has been nominated by the King's Party as its Chief Ministerial candidate.

The posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker would also go to the nominees of the rebel Muslim League.

In the NWFP, the Jamat-e-Ulema Islami nominee, Akram Durrani, is all set take over as the Chief Minister.

Initially, there was opposition to his candidature from the Jamaat-e-Islami on the plea that he did not fulfil the Islamic criteria as he was `beardless'. Soon Mr. Durrani began sporting a beard.

PPP concern

In a related development, the PPP has expressed grave concern over the postponement of the inaugural session of Sindh Assembly from November 25 to 28.

``The delay in the summoning of the Sindh Assembly is based on mala fide intention and is an attempt to subvert the mandate of the people by trying to impose a minority Government in Sindh. The Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarian is the majority party of Sindh and it is its constitutional and political right to form the Government without interference from the Federal Government'', the acting General Secretary of PPP, Raza Rabbani, said.

He said the PML (Q) had formed the Federal Government with a majority of one vote and alleged that the Government had been formed through horse-trading and it was because of this that the National Assembly session was delayed.

Any attempt to repeat the Federal experiment would cast long shadows on the entire system and it would amount to denying the people of Sindh of their political rights and bring the Federation under grave strain, he warned.

``The Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarian is poised to form the Sindh Government with its allies'', he claimed.

However if what had happened at the national level is any indication, it might not to be easy for the PPP to form a Government in Sindh.

With just over 51 members in a 140-member House, the party is finding it difficult to forge alliances.