ISLAMABAD, Aug 26, Reuter: The Pakistan Muslim League, which governed from 1986 to last May under Military President Mohammad ZiaulHaq, split into two on Friday.

Nine days after his death in a mystery plane crash, a faction of Zia protégés including at least six current ministers met to choose a new party president and secretary general.

The rival faction led) by former Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, sacked by Zia last May, said’ the meeting was illegal.

The final rupture, after several weeks of reconciliation attempts, came the day after the new army Chief had thrown his support openly behind elections due on November 16.

General Mirza Aslam Beg told an audience of Senior Officers that the armed forces, which have ruled for more than half Pakistan’s 41 years of existence, should stay out of politics.

Zia picked Junejo to head a civilian administration in 1985 after nonparty elections, boycotted by the opposition.

The Muslim League was formed under Junejo’s leadership when Zia lifted Martial Law at the end of 1985, and a large majority of the members of parliament joined at once.

It took its name from the revered party which campaigned for the creation of Pakistan on the ending of British Colonial rule in the subcontinent in 1947.

PML Members said the party leadership had been offered to acting President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the Senate Chairman, in a bid to bridge the gap, he declined:

The breakaway faction includes the Chief Ministers of Pakistan’s four provinces, appointed by Zia after the unexpected sacking of the Junejo government on May 29.

They elected former governor of North West frontier province Fida Mohammad Khan as President, and the powerful Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif as Secretary General.

The PML was expected to be the main challenger to Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan people’s party in the elections, though the ground rules have yet to be laid down. The key issue is whether the polls should be held on a party basis.

Political observers said Bhutto clearly stood to gain if the two PML factions fought each other at the polls.

Junejo welcomed begs remarks, “I think it is a positive statement by a general,” he said.

“I think he wanted to give forthright guidelines to the military.”

Article extracted from this publication >> September 2, 1988