The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parties in budget threat

Islamabad, May 28 (Reuters): Pakistani Opposition parties, led by hardline Islamic groups, threatened today to block the passage of next year's budget through parliament if an impasse over the military’s role in politics persisted.

The pro-military government of Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali is due to present its first budget to the National Assembly, parliament's lower house, early next month, possibly on June 7.

“We will allow them to present the budget but will not let it be passed if situation does not change,” said Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a central leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance of six Islamic groups.

Jamali’s coalition government enjoys a majority in the 342-seat Assembly, but the Opposition's noisy protests over constitutional changes introduced by President Pervez Musharraf has virtually paralysed proceedings since parliamentary elections in October.

The controversial amendments give Musharraf power to dissolve the parliament and formalise the military’s role in state affairs by creating the powerful National Security Council made up of military leaders and politicians.

The Opposition also wants Musharraf to step down as chief of the army staff.

The Pakistan People’s Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said it had not yet firmed up its strategy for the budget but warned of more protests in parliament if the standoff persisted.

“If things remain the same then we have said we will continue to do this in the budget session,” Bhutto’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told Reuters.

Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, says the constitutional changes introduced by him are vital for political stability in a country ruled for more than half of its 55-year history by the military.

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