The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Benazir agrees to back cleric as PM

Islamabad, Nov. 5 (PTI): Overcoming her reservations, former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto okayed top Islamic cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman as the prime ministerial candidate to head a coalition government comprising religious and moderate political parties.

After two days of negotiations, Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan, chief of the 15-party Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), said here today that the ARD and the six-party religious alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) reached an agreement “in principle” on the candidates for the posts of Prime Minister, speaker and deputy speaker.

He, however, declined to disclose the names. PPPP sources saidBhutto had finally agreed to the candidature of MMA nominee Rehman for the Prime Minister’s post. The names will be announced after completion of talks.

Confirming Nasarullah Khan’s statement on the agreement between the ARD and the MMA, Faratullah Babar, PPPP spokesman, said that his party has conveyed its consent to the ARD leader to form an MMA-PPPP coalition government.

While the candidates for the posts of Prime Minister, speaker and deputy speaker have been identified, consultations are ion between the the two parties to work out the formation of the government.

However, both the MMA and the ARD were silent about Bhutto’s safe return from -exile and the release of her husband Asif Ali Zardari, who is in jail for the past six years.

The news of the MMA-ARD deal has sent shock waves in the official establishment here as it heralded the polarisation of country’s top political parties against President Pervez Musharraf.

The alliance consists of the PPPP, the country’s top islamic religious parties and the faction of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The three parties have already challenged Musharraf’s presidency and his constitutional amendments.

While the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam emerged as the single largest party with 114 seats in the 342-seat National Assembly, it consists of mostly former Sharif loyalists.

The party appeared to be politically isolated as it is not supported by any alliance.

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