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S Asia Pakistan’s Premier Fights To Save Government


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
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Pakistan’s Premier Fights to Save Government

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani struggled to muster support for his government on Monday, a day after a second ally quit the ruling coalition with his Pakistan Peoples Party.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan, left, with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein, the leader of opposition party Pakistan Muslime League Quaid, during their meeting in Lahore on Monday.

But at a time when the economy is teetering, public discontent is growing over inflation and a worsening power crisis, and the United States is seeking to expand cooperation in the war against terrorism, no political party seems eager to take the reins of the government.

So there seemed to be growing consensus amongst opposition politicians and analysts here that Mr. Gilani would remain in office despite the crisis, but would be deeply weakened and even more unable to govern this fractured and tumultuous country.

A spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, who is the co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, issued a strongly worded statement of support for Mr. Gilani.

“The prime minister is not alone, he will not be left alone,” the statement said. “The party stands behind him through thick and thin. Let there be no doubt or mistake about it.”

Many see Mr. Zardari as gaining by the crisis facing Mr. Gilani, who has had a dismal record of governance and whose family is the subject of swirling allegations of corruption.

“His goose has come to roost,” Mushahid Hussain, a former information minister and secretary general of opposition political party Pakistan Muslim-League- Quaid, said in an interview in Islamabad. He dismissed Mr. Zardari’s show of support for Mr. Gilani as “mere posturing.”

The two parties that have left the coalition at the federal level are the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or M.Q.M., and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal. The first left late Sunday, the second last month. But both remain in coalition with the Pakistan Peoples Party in the Sindh and Baluchistan provincial governments, leading analysts and politicians to speculate that both are mainly focused on trying to extract concessions. Only the Jamiat has demanded Mr. Gilani’s resignation.

President Zardari has spent the last several days trying to resolve differences with M.Q.M. in the southern Sindh port city of Karachi, where it has traditionally controlled politics. However, as of Monday night, there were no evident signs of rapprochement.

Leaders of M.Q.M. stressed that the government had done nothing to improve deteriorating economic conditions and urged the government to take immediate steps to alleviate rising fuel prices and other domestic burdens.

“We might even think of leaving the coalition government in Sindh,” Nasreen Jalil, a senior leader of M.Q.M in Karachi, said in an interview. “There is no negotiation at present. We are in the opposition.”

As part of Mr. Gilani’s efforts to avert a no-confidence vote in Parliament, he held talks with Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab Province and the younger brother of the opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Officials of Mr. Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, say that they are proceeding cautiously as the political crisis unfolds. “We will neither sink the government nor extend them our shoulder,” said Ahsan Iqbal, a legislator from the party.

Mr. Gilani also met Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Ilahi, leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid political party, which is the next largest opposition party. Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, a leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal, reiterated his party’s demand on Monday that Mr. Gilani resign, saying he no longer had a majority in the Parliament.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading political and military analyst based in Lahore, seemed to think that Mr. Gilani still had some breathing space.

“I do not see the government of Mr. Gilani collapsing in the next few weeks,” Mr. Rizvi said. “I think he still has some opportunity to pull together some support, but unless he does that he cannot survive for long. Only Pakistan Muslim League-N can push forward a no-confidence motion against the prime minister. Till now, it has not shown such signs.”

But even if the crisis does not cause the government to collapse, he said, “the imminent impasse in the political system would mean that the current government cannot last its full term, which ends in 2013.”

Waqar Gillani contributed reporting from Lahore, Pakistan.




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