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Pervez calls session, parties near deal

Islamabad, Nov. 13 (Reuters): Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf summoned the country’s parliament to meet today after the main pro-military party and a Right-wing Islamic alliance moved closer to a coalition pact.

“The President has called the National Assembly session at 11 o’clock on Saturday,” Anwar Mehmood, permanent secretary of the information ministry, said today. The announcement, also carried on state-run Pakistan Television, came even though the political parties that contested general elections on October 10 have yet to finalise a coalition to return the country to civilian rule.

However, the pro-military Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-QA) and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance of six Right-wing religious parties say they have narrowed differences that prevented an earlier attempt to form a coalition.

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, initially summoned the Assembly to meet on November 8, but was forced to delay the session after parties were unable to agree coalition terms.

Leaders of MMA and PML-QA met again today to thrash out differences. “There was progress,” Qazi Hussain Ahmed, a senior MMA official, said later. He said joint proposals to reverse controversial constitutional amendments introduced by Musharraf before the polls would be put to the government.

Another MMA official, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said the two parties agreed on the need to abolish a National Security Council intended to oversee the work of parliament.

The pro-military Muslim League secured 118 seats in the election, making it the largest party. But it fell well short of the 172 needed for a simple majority in the 342-seat National Assembly, forcing it to try to negotiate a coalition.

The Islamists, who campaigned on a strongly anti-US platform — seeking the immediate removal of US bases from Pakistan and imposition of Islamic law — secured an unexpected 60 seats giving them the balance of power.

The alliance’s earlier attempts to negotiate with both pro-military and anti-military parties stalled on its insistence that its leader, conservative Islamic cleric Razal-ur-Rehman, should become Prime Minister.

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