Pakistan political crisis deepens after key partner joins opposition

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, January 4, 2011
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Political crisis in Pakistan deepened after a key party announced Sunday to join opposition and the development is believed to have posed a serious threat to the government of Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani.

The government led by President Asif Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) reduced to a minority after the Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) or United National Movement pulled out of the coalition, citing hike in the petroleum prices, government's failure to check corruption and its unwillingness to impose tax on big landlords.

The MQM on Monday approached the Speaker of the National Assembly and Chairman of the Senate for allocation of seats on the opposition benches, a sign that it will not change its earlier decision.

Prime Minister Gilani has now lost majority in the 342-member National Assembly, or lower house of the parliament, and he is now under pressure to seek fresh vote of confidence.

The MQM has 25 lawmakers in the National Assembly, the lone forum to elect the Prime Minister. The PPP, which has 126 lawmakers and is now backed by 31 more parliamentarians, was at least 14 seats short of a simple majority in the National Assembly. The Prime Minister needs 172 votes to keep simple majority.

Analysts said that there is no immediate threat to the government of Prime Minister Gilani as no party has yet made mind to table no-trust move against the government.

But sensing the imminent threat to his government the Prime Minister Monday launched a vigorous campaign to meet opposition leaders to seek their support. Gilani met leader of the main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shehbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab province and another opposition leader of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) party, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

The Prime Minister may come out with a statement after meeting the opposition leaders, officials said.

The MQM's decision has brought the government of Prime Minister Gilani at the verge of collapse and it has been left with few options, political analysts said.

The possible options included that the Prime Minister must take fresh vote of confidence, the President should ask the Prime Minister to prove majority or the Prime Minister should resign and pave the way for new leader. If the Prime Minister insists not to go for vote of confidence, then the National Assembly could be dissolved for mid-term polls.

Gilani told reporters Sunday that his government will stay without MQM. Many did not agree with his notion and said that he has lost majority in the parliament.

Fate of Gilani's government depends on PML-N party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which has not yet come up with a clear stand.

Pakistani media also were skeptical about the future of the Prime Minister and all major newspapers have mentioned that the MQM's decision has badly hit his government.

Major dailies Monday highlighted the losing majority of the government in its headlines. Private TV channels are also doubtful about the future of the government and some even say that the crisis may lead to mid-term elections.

As the political situation in Pakistan is fast changing, other opposition parties also started talks for the future strategy. Central leaders of an opposition Islamist party, Jamiat ulema-e- Islam, (JUI) Monday met chief of PML-Q party Chaudhry Shujaat Husain and called for resignation of the Prime Minister and his cabinet. The JUI leader Abdul Ghafoor Haidry said that his party will continue the process of consultations with other party to chalk out plans.

The sudden development has dragged the country into political crisis as it has internal and external implications at a time when the country is still struggling to deal with hike in prices, shortage of power, natural gas, corruption and bad law and order situation. The crisis can divert attention of the government from these issues, analysts said.

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