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Breakthrough eludes Gilani in Pakistan's political crisis

Tuesday January 04, 2011 11:05:31 AM, IANS

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Islamabad: A meeting between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Monday failed to end the crisis facing the government, which has been reduced to a minority after a key partner quit the ruling coalition.

The meeting between Gilani and Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, ended without any breakthrough, Geo TV reported. Sharif is the younger brother of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The two leaders met for nearly two hours at the prime minister's residence a day after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) walked out from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led coalition over price hikes.

Shahbaz Sharif would discuss Gilani's proposal with the PML-N central executive committee that is scheduled to meet in Islamabad Tuesday, Gthe report said quoting sources.

Meanwhile, in an ironic twist, Gilani Monday sought the support of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), the second largest opposition party in parliament, to shore up his coalition.

Gilani telephoned PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain early Monday morning seeking his support, Express Tribune reported.

The PPP has 125 members in the National Assembly, 47 short of a simple majority to keep the government in office. It has the support of the Awami National Party's 13 lawmakers, five from the Pir Pagara-led Functional League and around 17 independent members. The PML-N has 90 members.

The irony was not lost on political analysts here. The PML-Q had been formed at then president Pervez Musharraf's behest just before the 2002 general elections by splitting the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif, whom the military dictator had doposed in a bloodless coup in 1999.

The PML-Q, which was derisively referred to as the "King's Party" during the election campaign and subsequently, was ousted in the 2008 polls by a coalition comprising Gilani's PPP and Nawaz Sharif's faction of the PML.

However, the coalition came apart after President Asif Ali Zardari, who is the PPP co-chair, reneged on the governance agenda that had been agreed to before the polls.

Though there seems to be very thin chances of any breakthrough in these meetings, some officials say nothing can be ruled out.

In the best case scenario, the PML-N can stay away from any move to dislodge Gilani's government even if it doesn't support it.

Experts say Sharif's unwillingness for midterm elections at this stage and fears for a military takeover can prove a breather for the PPP-led government.

Gilani's canvassing began soon after the MQM announced Sunday that it was withdrawing support to the ruling coalition over the hike in commodity prices.

The MQM coordination committee held meetings simultaneously in Karachi and London before arriving at the decision, according to Geo TV.

Reacting to the MQM's decision, which was first made known last week, Gilani told reporters earlier that the government will continue to function even if any party decides to quit the coalition.

"The government will continue to function with or without the coalition partners," he said.

Gilani faces an imminent no-confidence motion in the National Assembly. The PPP needs at least 12 seats to survive and the prime minister is expected to talk about the possible alliance between PPP and PML-Q in Monday's meeting, Express Tribune said.

The 51-member PML-Q, which is the second largest opposition group in the house, has earlier said it will not move the no-confidence motion against the prime minister.

According to Express 24/7 television channel, Shujaat said they will listen to Gilani and then consult other party leaders before reaching a conclusion.







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