The two main rivals of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto have joined forces to fight her People's Party in general elections on November 16.
The two factions of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) announced late on Friday night they were re-uniting under the leadership of former prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo.Political analysts said the move was aimed at avoiding a split in the anti-Bhutto vote. In 1970, the People's Party (PPP) won 59 percent of National Assembly seats with only 39 percent of the popular vote under the first-past-the post electoral system.
The united Muslim League will present a stronger challenge to the PPP, which since the death of military President Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq in August has been widely favored to do well in the elections, the analysts said.
"This was expected," People's Party secretary-general Tikka Khan commented on Saturday. "They are all afraid of the PPP."
The Muslim League split began when Zia fired Junejo last May. The government faction was led by the powerful chief ministers of Pakistan's four provinces and most of the federal cabinet. They proclaimed themselves Zia's political heirs.
The Junejo faction, which included two serving cabinet ministers, criticized the late military ruler. It also joined in opposition demands for the firing of the federal and provincial governments to prevent them rigging the polls.