Pakistan:major political party still to decide on Coalition

Pakistan’s second largest party MQM is still to decide whether or not it should permanently rejoin the coalition, days after it quit the cabinet and joined the opposition bench.

The move comes at a time when the Obama administration has increased pressure on Islamabad to go after militant groups to help the United States turn around the uncertain war effort in neighboring Afghanistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari earlier on Monday expressed full confidence in the country’s beleaguered prime minister, who is scrambling to prevent his government from falling after a key coalition partner MQM, Muttahida Qaumi Movement quit.

MQM party leaders Farooq Sattar, (dark jacket), and Babar Khan Ghauri (R

One US official described the situation as an internal political issue, adding that “we do not think it would be appropriate for the US to comment,” according to China Daily.

According to a report by Pakistan News, after quitting the coalition at the center, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement is now giving “very serious consideration” to the option of leaving the Sindh government and a decision in this regard is expected in a few days. It could be a very important decision as MQM has exerted much influence in the political affairs of the country. 

On the other hand, the Pakistan People’s Party (ruling party) believes that a decision by the MQM to sit on the opposition benches in the Sindh assembly would have no effect on its government, but at the same time it hopes that the ally will remain with it.

“Yes, we are serious and you will see it in the next few days,” one of the MQM leaders told Dawn newspaper when asked about the chances of the party quitting the provincial government.

Stating the reasons why they are quitting, the MQM said it was joining the opposition because of fuel price hikes and the general poor performance of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. The government announced rises in gas and heating oil prices on New Year’s Eve, but the MQM refered to it as a “petrol bomb” dropped on the Pakistani people.

Meanwhile, a smaller party, the Jamiat Ulema Islam, announced last December it would switch to the opposition. So, without the two, the ruling coalition will fall short of the 172 seats needed to keep a majority.

The ruling party leaders said they were trying to work out their differences with the MQM, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said he was confident the government could maintain its majority.

Analysts said that if the government cannot hold together its majority coalition or form a new one, it could face a no-confidence vote and midterm elections.

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