Pakistani PM meets opposition

Updated: 2011-01-04 09:31

(China Daily)

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Pakistani PM meets opposition
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani (L) walks with President of the Pakistan Muslim League, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, after meeting at Hussain's residence in Lahore Jan 3, 2011. Gilani scrambled to save his ruling coalition on Monday after a key partner withdrew. [Photo/Agencies]

ISLAMABAD - The beleaguered Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Monday launched efforts to save his government after a major partner of the ruling coalition decided to sit on the opposition benches.

Sensing the imminent threat to his government Gilani on Monday met leader of the main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif, in the eastern city of Lahore and "sought his support for his government," a source of Sharif party said.

No details were available of Gilani-Sharif meeting but some leaders of the PML-N said they would not support Gilani if a no-trust motion is tabled in the parliament.

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The government led by President Asif Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) reduced to a minority after the Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) pulled out of the coalition, citing hike in the petroleum prices, failure of the government to check corruption and the government unwillingness to impose tax on big landlords.

Gilani has now lost majority in the 342-member National Assembly, or lower house of the parliament, and he is under pressure from several opposition groups to seek fresh vote of confidence.

The MQM has 25 lawmakers in the National Assembly, the lone forum to elect the Prime Minister. The PPP, which has 126 lawmakers and is now backed by 31 more parliamentarians, was at least 14 seats short of a simple majority in the National Assembly.

The PML-N party has 91 seats in the National Assembly and the major opposition group in the house.

The Prime Minister has also telephoned leader of another opposition party Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q), Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, and asked for support, local media reported.

Analysts said that there is no immediate threat to Gilani as no party has made mind to table no-trust move against the government.

Ruling party leaders said they were trying to work out their differences with the MQM, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said he was confident the government could maintain its majority.

The head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Chaudry Shujaat Hussain, said he was slated to see Gilani later on Monday. State-run Pakistan Television said Gilani was talking to a top official in the Pakistan Muslim League-N, the lead opposition party.

If the ruling party cannot hold together its majority coalition or form a new one, it could face a no-confidence vote and midterm elections. Analysts said the ruling party had only weeks, if not days, to try to prevent the government's collapse.

However, poor relations between the MQM and the PML-N, headed by Nawaz Sharif, give the ruling party some breathing space.



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