The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pervez glosses over Benazir aide meet

Islamabad, Oct. 29 (Reuters): Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said today his military government was in no way trying to influence the formation of a civilian coalition following October 10 polls.

“The political process is on in the country and the government has no role in it,” Musharraf told reporters before leaving for a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia.

The remarks came after some politicians expressed concern that a weekend meeting between Musharraf and a leader of the mainstream Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) showed the general was working behind the scenes to engineer a coalition, even though he has pledged to stay out of the process.

Musharraf said his meeting with Makhdoom Amin Faheem, an aide to exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, at a hill-top restaurant near Islamabad was a coincidence.

“Some people are saying that the meeting was pre-planned or designed... These are totally wrong and baseless assertions,” he added.

He said the reason for the delay in calling what will be the first civilian parliament since he seized power in coup in 1999, was due to challenges of some election results.

As Musharraf embarked on his first overseas trip since the elections there was still no sign that the major political parties had come close to an agreement on the make-up of a coalition or who should lead it.

More than two weeks after the poll, the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam or PML(QA), which emerged as the largest party, and the PPPP, which came in second, have yet to announce their candidates for the Prime Ministership. Both parties have been trying to woo an alliance of hardline Islamic groups, the Muttahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), that emerged as potential coalition partner after the election.

However, the MMA, which rode a wave of anti-Western feeling over the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan and won an unprecedented 45 seats, insists it should lead any future coalition government. The religious alliance has called a meeting of all major political groups to try to reach a consensus on when parliament should be called and on changes Musharraf has made to the constitution.

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