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Musharraf casts military League

Islamabad, Sept. 18: Five breakaway factions of the Pakistan Muslim League have reunited, gifting President Pervez Musharraf a regiment of pro-military politicians.

The President is understood to have played an instrumental role in bringing together the five factions, including the ruling PML (Quaid-e-Azam), late last night.

Musharraf attended a lunch hosted by Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali after the conclusion of the merger talks. The rapprochement is expected to upstage former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Jamali said there was a proposal for making Musharraf the PML president, but it was decided “not to involve him in politics”.

The reunification, announced by Jamali, involves the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam) led by Chaudhry Shujaat, the PML (Functional) of Pir Pagara, the PML (Junejo) of Hamid Nasir Chattha, the PML (Jinnah) of Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo and the PML (Zia) of Ijazul Haq. All were once close allies and associates of Sharif.

Pir Pagara and Chattha had parted ways with Sharif in early 1993, but the others had developed serious differences with him before the October general elections.

Jamali said all the factions had agreed to forget the past and unite their factions under Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, a known wheeler-dealer in the political arena.

“Heading the united PML is an onerous duty which I will try to fulfil to the best of my abilities,” Hussain said after his election as president, describing the merger as a unique development in Pakistan’s history.

The military establishment’s attempts to unite the PML had hit a snag when the leaders failed to reach an understanding on the means of electing a new leadership in late 2001.

The PML () of Sharif was not invited to yesterday’s talks. Jamali said the PML () would be invited for talks at an “appropriate” time.

“How can we join this group, which is part of Musharraf’s misdeeds'” Siddique-ul-Farooq, the PML () central secretary, information, asked. “I would rather call this grouping the ‘military League,’ which has no roots among the masses and has been raised by General Musharraf,” Farooq said, recalling how the military establishment had cobbled together the PML(Q) by scaring and luring pro-military leadersinto it in 2000. Detractors had labelled it the king’s party.

Observers believe the reunification is also aimed at countering the Mutahida Majlis-e-Ammal, a grouping of religious parties, that refuse to accept Musharraf as a uniformed President.

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