Quetta (Pakistan), Nov. 30 (Reuters): Pakistan’s hardline Islamic coalition opposed to the US war on terror won a share of power in Baluchistan province today, a day after it took control of another region bordering Afghanistan.
The rise of the religious Right has caused concern in the West over whether it would hamper the US-led hunt for hundreds of al Qaida and Taliban fugitives believed to be hiding inside Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan last year.
But government and military officials have said Pakistan’s cooperation in the war on terror would not be hampered, and that provincial governments had no say over the key tribal areas next to Afghanistan.
Legislators in the Baluchistan Assembly’s first session after the country returned to civilian rule appointed a member of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) bloc as speaker in a deal to divide power with the pro-military government.
Jamal Shah Kakar was elected speaker with 37 votes in the 65-seat Assembly. Another 12 votes were declared invalid and his opponent won 10 votes. The MMA, which posted huge gains in last month’s general election by tapping fierce anti-US sentiment in many areas, has agreed to share provincial power with the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-QA).
It puts the MMA, which counts fiery pro-Taliban clerics among its leadership, in a strong position along the Pakistan-Afghan border, although the PML-QA will take the key post of chief minister in Baluchistan under the deal announced late yesterday.
At the same time as revealing the agreement, the PML-QA and MMA said two MMA leaders convicted of corruption during President Pervez Musharraf’s three-year military rule were freed on parole, a decision which angered the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians.
But Jam Yousuf, the PML-QA candidate for chief minister likely to take up his post after a vote tomorrow, said the two men’s release was not the result of any agreement. “They have been released on parole.”
The MMA took control in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) yesterday and immediately called for Islamic laws banning music on public transport, alcohol and gambling to be strictly enforced. Similar calls are expected in Baluchistan.
The PML-QA government is in danger of collapsing one week after Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali was sworn into office with a one-vote majority in the National Assembly.
The party closest to Musharraf emerged as the largest group in the poll, winning 118 seats out of 342. But to win power it relied on smaller parties and the defection of 10 members of the PPPP. The fragility of its position was underlined this week when the 16-member MQM withdrew its support, forcing Jamali either to patch up differences with the Karachi-based group or seek support from the MMA.