| Pakistanis pray during the second Friday of Ramzan in Islamabad. (Reuters)
Islamabad, Nov. 15 (Reuters): Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf will be sworn in for a new five-year term tomorrow, the day of the opening session of the new National Assembly.
State media said tonight that Musharraf, who bloodlessly overthrew elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, would take the oath just before the opening of the Assembly, which is due to convene even though rival parties have yet to agree a coalition.
Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led war on terror, secured the fresh term through a controversial referendum in April that analysts say was heavily rigged in his favour.
He had made clear his new term would start when the National Assembly, elected in a similarly controversial election on October 10, convened.
Musharraf’s oath of office will be administered by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, which legitimised his rule for the past three years but asked him to hold parliamentary elections.
The official Associated Press of Pakistan said that from tomorrow Musharraf would also revive the constitution, suspended since he took power, apart from some articles relating to provincial government and the upper house or Senate, which would be restored later. It gave no other details.
Musharraf provoked a storm of protest before the election by altering the constitution to give the President power to dismiss parliament and to establish a military-dominated National Security Council to oversee the work of government.
The future of the new Assembly already appears uncertain.
The pro-military Pakistan Muslim League secured most seats — 118 — but not enough to rule alone. It has been trying to form a coalition with an alliance of six Right-wing Islamic parties that fought on a strong anti-US platform.
But one of the leaders of the alliance, Fazal-ur-Rehman, a hardline cleric who supported the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, said today his Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance could not back the League’s Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali as Prime Minister.
He said Jamali had dissolved a provincial Assembly in the past, so could not be expected to defend parliament against the military in future. “How can we support such a person'”
Rehman’s alliance came out of the polls with 60 seats and unexpectedly hold the balance of power. It initially insisted that Rehman himself should head the government, a prospect that alarmed markets and proponents of the war on terror.
The Muslim League said this week the sides were close to a deal.
Benazir party split
Earlier, 10 newly elected members of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s anti-military Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said they had formed a breakaway faction expected to side with the Muslim League.
The PPP called the move an attempt by Musharraf to split the party and create an artificial pro-military majority.