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Pak Assembly suspended to resolve Pervez row

Islamabad, April 30 (Reuters): Pakistan’s lower house of parliament suspended its session indefinitely today to give the government and Opposition time to resolve a dispute over powers granted to President Pervez Musharraf.

Talks between the government and Opposition groups started last week and are set to resume next Monday in an attempt to unlock an impasse over constitutional changes introduced by former military ruler Musharraf before an election last year.

Musharraf seized power in a 1999 military coup and while the October election restored civilian rule, he still holds sweeping powers as President.

The speaker of the National Assembly, Chaudhry Amir Hussain, said the session ended with the consent of the government and Opposition. “It is being done to keep the atmosphere congenial for talks,” he said,

The Opposition, led by an Islamic alliance, wants Musharraf to step down as chief of army staff, and withdraw constitutional amendments, under a Legal Framework Order (LFO), that give him the power to dissolve parliament.

They also object to the creation of a powerful National Security Council, which includes military leaders as well as politicians, and which they say is an attempt to institutionalise the role of the military in state affairs.

Their noisy protests in parliament — thumping their wooden desks with leather file covers, and shouting “No LFO” and “Go Musharraf go” — have prevented any serious parliamentary business since the election.

Liaqat Baluch, a senior member of the Islamic alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, said that talks were to resume on Monday and would continue until May 15. Five members each from the government and Opposition will prepare a draft on the constitutional amendments. But political observes say a compromise is not in sight given the hardline positions of both sides.

Al Qaida arrests

Pakistan said today it had arrested six members of a high-profile al Qaida cell, including a Yemeni believed to have been involved in the October 2000 attack on the US warship Cole in Yemen.

The government said the group had been planning a major terrorist attack in Pakistan.

Interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said the six also included a nephew of al Qaida number three, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was arrested in Pakistan in March.

A Pakistani government statement identified the Cole suspect as Waleed Muhammad Bin Attash alias Khalid Al-Attash, a Yemeni national.

It said the arrests took place yesterday during a raid in which 150 kg of high explosives was also seized.

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