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Pak bid to calm House fears

Islamabad, Oct. 21 (Reuters): Pakistan’s military-led government denied today it was dragging its feet over calling the country’s first civilian parliament since a 1999 coup, attributing the delay to procedural matters.

Military ruler President Pervez Musharraf had promised to hand over power to a civilian Prime Minister by around November 1, but there has been speculation the deadline will not be met, with no sign of a parliament 11 days after a general election.

The Election Commission said it only officially published the bulk of the election results today. A few seats remain in dispute, and 70 seats reserved for women and non-Muslim minorities have not yet been allotted.

Some critics argue the government is in no hurry to relinquish the reins of power, and is using the delay to influence the formation of a new government behind the scenes. But justice minister Khalid Ranhja said that was not true.

“Once the procedures are complete there will be no delay. I can assure you of that,” he said.

As the post-election wrangling continues, an official from the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) said the party was optimistic it could attract hardline Islamic parties to its side to form a coalition government.

PML(QA) emerged as the strongest party with 77 of the 272 constituency seats, with the religious Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance third with 45 seats.

“We are expected to reach an agreement soon, most likely with the MMA,” the PML(QA) official said.

Senate bar on Benazir

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has promulgated yet another ordinance barring former Premiers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from running for elections to the Senate despite criticism that religious parties gained in the October 10 elections due to ban on top leaders.

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