AS winter fog has taken most parts of the country into its biting grip, there are also ominous signals on the political horizon that too has become misty following departure of the two allies of the Government — JUI(F) and MQM. Contrary to expectations that President Asif Ali Zardari, who was busy in hectic consultations in Karachi, would be able to win back the peeved MQM, the Party has decided to sit in the Opposition in Parliament. However, it has still left its doors open for a possible rapprochement, as it would remain part and parcel of the coalition in Sindh where it has major stakes.
The decision of the MQM has shaken the Government as it no more enjoys the numerical majority, which is a must to form and retain the Government in a parliamentary democracy. Different scenarios are being predicted as the way out of the existing tricky situation but neither the stakeholders nor the analysts have definite clue as for which direction the system was heading. In usual circumstances, lack of majority would compel the Prime Minister to either seek a vote of confidence or dissolve the Assembly to go for a fresh poll but here any of these propositions seems unlikely to happen. This is because although the Opposition parties as well as majority of people of Pakistan are vying for a change yet no one is ready to step in to take up the responsibilities at this most challenging juncture of our history. It is, perhaps, in this backdrop that while President Asif Ali Zardari has once again talked about completion of five-year-term while Prime Minister Gilani is expressing confidence that nothing unusual would happen even after parting of ways by MQM, which has left him seven votes short of majority. Apart from the fact that the Opposition is in disarray and not in a position to present a potent threat due to mistrust, PML (N) would also not become part of any no-confidence move as Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is not in the Assembly to become an alternative choice. Anyhow, it is encouraging that irrespective of their political moves necessitated by expediencies and compulsions, no one is keen to rock the boat and that means continuation of the system. But nothing should be taken for granted in our treacherous environment and the Government ought to change its policies that have so far given masses no relief but added to their woes and miseries.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani on Monday met top leaders of the opposition PML-N and PLM-Q, but got no firm assurance from them on saving his tottering government.
Beleaguered Gillani emerging from the crisis talks, however, claimed that the two main opposition parties had said they would not back any move “that derails democracy”.
Gillani took the step to reach out to the PML-N and the PML-Q, as clamour mounted for his resignation following the withdrawal of support from the 25-member strong Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a development that reduced his government to a minority left with only 160 members in a 342 strong National Assembly.
First he met PML-N leader and CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and then drove to the Lahore residence of PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain once described by President Asif Ali Zardari as the “qatil (killer) league” for its government’s alleged failure to provide protection to his wife Benazir Bhutto at the time of her assassination in 2007.
The desperate moves by Gilani came as leaders of his erstwhile ally Jamiet Ulema-e-Islam called for his stepping down, saying he had lost support in parliament, triggering horse trading in search of new alliances.
Following separate meetings with PM Gillani, leaders of the PML-N and PML-Q said they would not take any step that derails democracy or amounted to “blackmailing” the government.
Emerging from a meeting with PML-Q chief Hussain, Gillani told reporters: “He has said that no step will be taken (by the PML-Q) that derails democracy”.
The top leadership of the PML-Q will hold further consultations on Tuesday the question of supporting the PPP-led government, Gillani said.
Ch Shujaat said the PML-Q had given unconditional support to Gillani so far but had now set the condition that the government should address the people’s problems to get its backing in future.
At an earlier meeting with Gillani, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said “democracy had become a reality after a long struggle against dictatorial regimes” and his party “would not let it be derailed”.
The PPP-led government is currently facing its worst crisis since it came to power after the 2008 general election.
During his meeting with the PML-N and PML-Q leaders, Gillani noted that he had unanimously been elected Leader of the House in the National Assembly and the opposition parties had always backed the government on issues that strengthened institutions and democracy.
This tradition should be continued by extending support to his government at this juncture, he said.
The 2008 election had thrown up a split mandate and no party has majority in parliament, Gillani said.
The PPP has banked on support from its allies and the opposition on key issues, he added.
“I never had majority support but it was unprecedented in Pakistan’s history that I got unanimous support (during the election as Leader of the House),” he said.
Asked by reporters about the possibility of a no-confidence move against him, Gillani said this could happen in only two ways – the President could ask him to seek a confidence vote or a motion could be introduced in parliament by any party.
He did not comment further on the issue. The MQM played a key role in propping up the government with its 25 parliamentarians.
The MQM said it decided to leave the ruling coalition because the government had failed to tackle the people’s problems, including price rise and corruption, though observers contended the move could be part of a greater effort to weaken the PPP’s grip on power.
The PPP has 126 members in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament, and enjoys the support of about 160 lawmakers.
It is at least 12 seats short of a simple majority and PPP leaders have begun a desperate scramble to shore up support for the government’s survival.