That's a relief for Musharraf and for the Bush Administration, which was initially concerned about the success of Islamist parties in the election. A religious alliance known as Muteheda Majlis-e-Amal gained a substantial parliamentary minority as well as control of the provincial government in the North-West Frontier Province, which neighbors Afghanistan. The alliance has threatened to thwart U.S. efforts to capture al Qaeda terrorist suspects, but Musharraf and the new government can be expected to overrule them. Cooperation with the U.S. is crucial to ensure continued foreign aid flows to Pakistan's still-fragile economy.
Still, it won't be smooth sailing for the new coalition government, which will be ruling with a thin majority in the Assembly. Loud debates about Musharraf's near-dictatorial powers are likely as Pakistan continues to experiment with its brand of democracy. By Naween A. Mangi in Karachi EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady