Benazir Bhutto's main rival abandoned an attempt to form a Pakistani government on Wednesday, clearing the way for her nomination as first woman prime minister of a Moslem country.

As the federal and provincial parliaments elected earlier this month were sworn in, Islamic Democratic Alliance leader Nawaz Sharif opted to sit for the Punjab provincial assembly.Sharif thus automatically forfeited seats he had also won in the 237-seat national assembly, where Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) holds the biggest single bloc of members.

He had to choose between continuing his bid for the prime ministership or trying to keep his current job, chief minister of Punjab province.

Acting President Ghulam Ishaq Khan will nominate the prime minister on Thursday and political analysts are unanimous in predicting he will choose the 35-year-old Bhutto.

The PPP does not have an overall majority but many independents and small parties have pledged their support.

The federal deputies recited the oath in the modern national assembly building in Islamabad before chief election commissioner S.A. Nusrat.

Bhutto is close to fulfilling the crusade she began when her father, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was overthrown in 1977 by Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq.

The legacy of her father, hanged on conspiracy to murder charges in 1979, dominated the campaign for the November 16 elections. The PPP won 45 percent of the seats against 27 percent for the anti-Bhutto alliance.