Pakistan's coalition government crumbling

Jan. 3, 2011 at 10:11 AM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Pakistani leader Syed Yousuf Raza struggled to rally support for his government after a key ally, the MQM, quit the ruling coalition, observers said.

The MQM is the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

While breaking with Pakistan Peoples Party on a federal level, the MQM, and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal remain in coalition with the prime minister's party in several provincial governments, leading lawmakers to speculate that there is some wiggle room.,

Officials said Gilani met with Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province and the younger brother of opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose support was considered critical to the government's survival, The New York Times reported.

But officials of Sharif's party, Pakistan Muslim League-N, said they haven't decided whether to back Gilani's ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.

"We will neither sink the government nor extend them our shoulder," said Ahsan Iqbal, a Pakistan Muslim League-N legislator.

"It seems they have a certain agenda to settle or bargaining to do," Iqbal told the Times.

While the MQM, which quit the federal ruling coalition Sunday, hasn't publicly demanded Gilani's resignation or indicated it would back a no-confidence vote, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal has been pressuring the prime minister, analysts said.

Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, a leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal, which broke with the ruling coalition at the federal level last month, reiterated Monday his party's demand that Gilani resign because he no longer holds a parliamentary majority.

"Basically, this situation where the government is 12 short of a simple majority in the National Assembly cannot last very long," said Omar Quraishi, opinion page editor of the Express Tribune, an English-language daily in Karachi.

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