Wednesday, November 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pervez may order fresh poll
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 19
General Pervez Musharraf’s peculiar move of putting the cart before the horse by getting himself sworn in as Pakistan President for another five years even before the formation of the National Assembly and election of the Prime Minister is being viewed in diplomatic circles here with suspicion.

Certain diplomats here see Gen Musharraf’s move amid the five-week-long political suspense in Pakistan on who is going to become the Prime Minister as a precursor to the President-cum-Chief of Army Staff-cum-Chief Executive ordering fresh elections.

According to well-placed sources here, fresh elections in Pakistan will suit the strategic and political interests of the George W. Bush administration as Washington had not anticipated that the October 10 general elections would throw up such a badly fractured mandate and, worse, put the fundamentalist parties in the driver’s seat.

Besides, diplomatic circles here are also abuzz with reports that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) covertly manipulated the victory of the six-party alliance of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) without the political leadership getting wind of it.

Already there are reports that Washington is putting pressure on Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Benazir Bhutto not to support the MMA’s candidate for Prime Ministership and this suspense is not going to be over before November 21 when the Prime Minister is to be elected.

Washington is looking with trepidation at the prospect of MMA’s leader Fazlur Rehman getting elected as PM because of his rabidly fundamentalist image and his public statements against the USA.

The Islamists’ anti-American sentiments came to the fore a couple of days ago when the body of Aimal Khan Kasi, who was executed in the USA on November 14 for the murder of two CIA employees in 1993, was brought to Quetta for burial. There were large-scale protests all over Pakistan and chanted anti-American slogans. Violence was reported from Karachi, Hyderabad (Sind), Peshawar and Quetta.


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