LONDON, Dec 10: The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), now minus the Jamaat-i-Islami, is expected to hold the balance in the next National Assembly as the January 8 elections are estimated officially to throw up largely a hung house.

These estimates which the PPP and the PML-N sources here believe have been drawn up by the intelligence agencies in the first week of the current month have given the PML-Q 115 seats followed by PPP (90), MMA (45), PML-N (40), MQM (20) and ANP (12) in a house of 342.

These estimates are said to have been made on the basis of the ‘strength’ of each party constituency-wise plus individual candidate’s own ‘ability’ to pull voters and the political affiliation of the nazims in the constituency.

The sources who did not wish to be identified alleged that the official plan was to rig the polls in such a way as to deny a clear majority to any of the contesting parties so as to place President Pervez Musharraf in a position of cobbling together a coalition of his choice which, according to the American script, is a coalition of the PML-Q and the PPP.

However, if the PML-Q and the PPP wished to make their own governments without the other, which many here fear is what the two parties would try their best to achieve first, Musharraf’s desire and American script notwithstanding, they would need to enlist the support of the MMA because a coalition of the PPP, PML-N and ANP would fall short by 30 votes, if the above official estimates come true, while the PML-Q would require another 17 votes to form a government even after the addition of 20 each from the MQM and smaller parties like PML-F and PPP (Sherpao) etc.

But then since a coalition with the MMA would not make Washington all that happy, Musharraf would probably try his best to scuttle any such move either by the PML-Q or the PPP, sources said.

This, they said, would then lead to a long drawn political wrangling and intense attempts at horse-trading which they fear would finally culminate into invalidation of January 8 elections and the president calling for fresh elections in June.

They, however, did not rule out the possibility of the original official estimates undergoing further changes in the remaining three weeks to the polls which could swing in favour of the PPP and the PML-N in case the two succeeded in forcing the government into accepting some of their demands included in the Charter of Demands.

Or, they said, the PML-Q in panic fearing losing their voters to the PML-N could go on a spree of rigging full throttle undermining the very credibility of the elections both inside and outside the country, to be followed by a kind of Orange revolution a la Ukraine which again could to lead to fresh elections in June.

Sources said that even if there was no Orange revolution the new government led by the PML-Q with a single digit majority would not last long unless of course it enlists the support of the MMA even at the cost of annoying the US.

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