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Pakistan: Back to Political Shenanigans
|by Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle|
A couple of months is a long time in Pakistani politics. After the call for resignation of the President, Mr Asif Zardari for his sojourn abroad during the floods in August, political shenanigans are once again haunting the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led coalition government in Islamabad as two partners have walked out. The wily survivor that he is Mr Zardari has moved swiftly to win over support of Mr Nawaz Sharif but how long remains to be seen.
The government received an expected setback when on 14 December; Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani sacked Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi and Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati reportedly for infighting over corruption in the recent Hajj arrangements. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) quit the coalition over dismissal of its member, Azam Swati. Housing and Works Minister Rehmatullah Kakar and Tourism and Culture Minister Maulana Ataur Rehman also resigned and the Jamiat sought to sit in the opposition putting the government in the first crisis during the month.
The main shock came once the Mohajir Qaumi Movement [MQM] with 25 seats pulled out ministers from the government but continued to stay in coalition and if reports are to be believed has now walked out of it. This has raised fears of the government falling into minority.
A count of the parties in the National Assembly would reveal the possibility of survival or otherwise of the government. The PPP needs a simple majority of 171 members in the 340 seats filled in the National Assembly as of 6 December [Total 342]. As is seen from the Table below, if the MQM pulls out and goes over to the opposition it would have 187 members 4 less than the required numbers for a majority. The opposition with 148 seats can form a government if the MQM joins hands with it as it would have 173 seats.
However recent statements by the PML N and the MQM leadership slandering each other are unlikely to make that a possibility. Moreover the two main parties, PML N and the PML Q are bitter rivals the latter being a break away which was in power under the regime of former General Pervez Musharraf who had exiled Mr Nawaz Sharif the PML N Chief. Thus the arithmetic of politics indicates that the PPP should be able to survive unless Independents or the ANP decide to leave which is unlikely. The other option is mid term elections for which the parties are really not ready and would not like to face the voters.
Note the figures may change with members moving from one side to another.
As per media reports there have been behind the scenes discussions with the British Prime Minister ringing up Mr Zardari and therefore there was hope for some reconciliation with the MQM, as the Party Chief Mr Altaf Hussain operates from Britain and the British have some say.
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