PPP-PML(Q) Marriage of Conveniences

The PPP government lost its majority in the National Assembly after Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Mutahidda Qoumi Movement (MQM) quitted the federal government. After pondering over a number of options, the PPP decided to look towards the PML-Q.

Talks between Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) for joining hands to form coalition government at the centre were finalised after one year. During this period rumours circulated about their patch-up, but both the parties kept a mum on this topic. At last the result was out in April and according to these parlays the PML-Q decided to join the federal cabinet while the formula for seat-adjustment for the next general elections was also finalised.

For finalising the deal of power sharing, PML-Q leader Ch Shujaat Hussain, Ch Pervez Elahi and Raja Bisharat held a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Makhdoom Amin Faheem, and Raja Pervez Ashraf  also joined him.

The PPP wants to complete its remaining two years tenure and the PML-Q has a desire to protect Moonis Elahi from the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) corruption case.

The need of this marriage of convenience was felt by the PPP government as it lost its majority in the National Assembly after the quitting of the federal government by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Mutahidda Qoumi Movement (MQM). The PPP leadership tried its level best to persuade both the former coalition allies to re-join the government but the JUI and MQM put a number of demands which were not acceptable to the PPP government. After pondering over a number of options, the PPP decided to look towards the PML-Q which was termed by it as ‘Qatil League’ after the death of Benazir Bhutto. There was much hue and cry against this alliance that even the PPP leader and Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Raza Rabbani submitted his resignation over this issue. Earlier, Raza Rabbani had also resigned as the Leader of the House in the Senate in protest against nominating Law Minister Farooq H Naek as the PPP nominee for Senate Chair man.
At last President Asif Ali Zardari administered oath to 14 members of the PML-Q as federal ministers. Those  who took oath  included Ch Pervez Elahi, Faisal Salah Hayat, Wajahat Hussain, Anwar Cheema, Shaikh Waqas, Amir Mukam, Ghaus Buksh, Shah Jahan, Yousuf Hiraj, Riaz Pirzada, Rana Asif, Sardar Bahadur, Khawaja Sheraz and Akram Maseh.

The PML-Q legislators who were appointed ministers were unhappy with the alliance, calling it a ‘poor deal. In fact, it was a reaction to Chaudhry brothers policy of keeping the contours of the deal secret until the very last minute.

On the other hand, there was also some reservation within the PML-Q over joining hands with the PPP. However, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat were clear enough to pacify the dissidents, but later PML-Q Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa chief Amir Muqam took a different stand and submitted his resignation to the Party chief, Ch Shujaat Hussain. He gave the reason of his resignation as violation of meeting the power-sharing formula between the two parties. He was awarded the Ministry of Production. This development also created cracks in the PML-Q.  Muqam was of the view that when talks were held with the PPP, the PML-Q leadership had assured him that their demands for creation of Hazara province and introduction of political reforms in tribal areas would be made part of the agreement. However, Muqam claimed that the party leadership had not shown him the agreement, forcing him to submit the resignation.

Earlier, the two parties agreed to work together and cooperate for strengthening democracy, ensuring electoral reforms, reforms in FATA, creation of new provinces specially in southern Punjab (Seraiki) and Hazara subject to consultation with the people and approval of stake holders, including making appropriate amendments to the Constitution for this purpose.

The two parties agreed to cooperate in a number of areas of concern to the people including economic uplift, controlling inflation, power shortage, transparency and accountability and strengthening of the law and order situation in the country.

According to some reports Ch Pervez Elahi was expected to become Deputy Prime Minister with his camp office in Lahore. However, there were reports that Prime Minister opposed the move and some constitutional and legal experts opined that there would be a need to amend the Constitution to create the post of deputy prime minister. On the other hand, there were also some constitutional and legal experts who gave the precedent of India. In India, L K Advani was made deputy prime minister by the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government through an executive order without making any amendment in the constitution. Later the idea of appointing Pervez Elahi as Deputy Prime Minister was dropped and he was appointed Senior Minister.

When the PML-Q was negotiating deal with the PPP, they told their members that they were demanding important ministries, among them foreign affairs, finance, petroleum, and water and power, besides the office of the deputy prime minister.

The PPP initially offered the office of UN ambassador to Mushahid Hussain but he refused to accept it and was interested in the foreign ministry.

This marriage of convenience is, in fact, an attempt on the part of both parties to save their skin. The PPP wants to complete its remaining two years tenure and the PML-Q has a desire to protect Moonis Elahi from the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) corruption case. What would be the result of this coalition, only time will tell.

By: Waseem-ur-Rehman Khan

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