Gilani reaches out to PML-N, PML-Q as crisis threatens Pakistan govt

PPP-led govt now faces the threat of no-confidence motion as MQM pulled out.

Last Updated: Jan 04, 2011, 00:19 AM IST

Lahore: In a desperate move to shore up
support for his tottering government, Pakistan Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani Monday met top leaders of the two opposition
PML-N and PLM-Q parties, as clamour mounted for his
resignation.

The attempts to reach out to the dominant opposition
party, the Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N and its rival PML-Q, came
in the wake of its key ally MQM withdrawing support, a
development that threatens to bring down the PPP-led
government.

But, despite Gilani`s efforts to reach out to the two
largest opposition parties in parliament, there were no
indications that either the PML-N or the PML-Q would back the
government, which is at least 12 members short of a majority
in the 342-member National Assembly.

The PPP-led coalition was plunged into crisis after
the Muttahida Qaumi Movement withdrew its support last night.

The MQM, which has 25 lawmakers and was the second
largest party in the coalition, had played a key role in
propping up the government.

Gilani first met Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif,
the younger brother of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, and
appreciated the PML-N`s decision not to support any move to
derail the government.

An insider in the PML-N told PTI that Gilani sought an
assurance from Sharif that his party`s 91 parliamentarians
would vote for the PPP in case a no-confidence motion is
tabled in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament.

The insider said Sharif did not make any promise in
this regard and told Gilani that the PML-N would discuss the
matter in a meeting of its central executive committee to be
held tomorrow.

Senior PML-N leader Saad Rafiq said his party would
neither give a vote of confidence to Gilani nor introduce a
no-confidence motion in parliament.

"Prime Minister Gilani should seek support from those
who were part of the government for three years," he said.

The beleaguered prime minister then sought support
from Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain-led PML-Q, a party that had once
been described by President Asif Ali Zardari as the "qatil
(killer) league".

Gilani telephoned Hussain and then went to meet the
former premier at his residence in Lahore.

Talking to the media before the meeting, Hussain said
the PML-Q would take all decisions in the interest of the
country and democracy. The PML-Q has 50 lawmakers in the
National Assembly.

Zardari had held the PML-Q responsible for the 2007
murder of his wife Benazir Bhutto as it had allegedly failed
to provide adequate security to her.

Sources said Gilani had sent feelers to the PML-Q to
back the PPP in parliament and to also join the federal
government.

The PML-Q, the sources said, had indicated it could
consider these options if the PPP helped install its
government in Punjab, the country`s most populous and
politically crucial province.

The prime minister`s task appeared uphill as the PPP
has already burnt its hands once in Punjab by trying to topple
the PML-N-led government in the province by imposing
Governor`s Rule.

"Under the present circumstances, the PPP cannot even
think of toppling Sharif`s government in Punjab," PPP Punjab
chapter president Imtiaz Safdar Warriach said.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, which too pulled out of the
PPP-led government last month, sent a delegation of senior
leaders led by Abdul Ghafoor Haideri to meet PML-Q chief
Hussain to ask him not to support the ruling coalition.

Haideri said the JUI would introduce a no-confidence
motion in parliament if Gilani and his cabinet did not resign.

However, observers said such a move by the JUI would
fail as the party has only eight lawmakers and virtually no
backing from bigger parties like PML-Q or PML-N.

PPP leader Warraich too said the JUI would not move
any no-confidence motion and the crisis would soon be over.

PPP central information secretary Fauzia Wahab said
that her party had no plans to remove Gilani from the
premier`s slot.

"The PPP is sure that it will not change Prime
Minister Gilani. We will foil any move in this regard," she
said.

PTI