ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday formed three committees which will hold meetings with the leaders of the disgruntled government allies to address their reservations.

The decision to form the committees was taken at a meeting presided over by Mr Khan at Prime Minister Office. “To resolve the issues raised by the parties allied to the government, the meeting discussed in detail the process of PTI’s engagement with its coalition partners,” said an official press release issued by the PM Office.

It said the prime minister felt that the process needed to be strengthened and formalised to ensure that there were no gaps in communication among the government allies.

Following the formation of the committees, headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, a fresh round of talks between the government and its allied parties is likely to take place on Friday (today).

The committee tasked with holding talks with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) consists of Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar as its convener, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Firdous Shamim Naqvi and Haleem Adil Sheikh. The committee which will hold negotiations with the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) comprises Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar as its convener, Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and Shafqat Mahmood. The committee tasked with holding talks with the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Balochistan National Party (BNP) and Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) includes National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri and Mir Khan Mohammad Jamali as its members.

Fresh round of talks between government and coalition partners likely today

Political circles believe that the prime minister formed the committees to appease the ‘annoyed’ allies as their departure from the ruling coalition may cause a serious blow to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf whose margin of majority over the opposition in the National Assembly is thin.

The major government allies have expressed reservations that they are not included in the consultative process, their ministers are helpless in decision-making and that the government has failed to provide any relief to the inflation-hit masses. Worries in the ruling quarters intensified after the PML-Q and MQM parted ways with the government in the federal cabinet. Some of them believe that demands of the three major allies are genuine, while others are of the view that it is a first step towards a possible in-house change.

While MQM leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui claimed that since he had resigned as information technology minister, he did not attend the last cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Housing Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema of the PML-Q skipped the meeting as he was said to be in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.

The prime minister had expressed astonishment and asked why Mr Siddiqui did not attend the cabinet meeting.

The government had held meetings with its coalition partners on Jan 16 to resolve issues, but in vain. Prime Minister Khan himself went to Karachi and met leaders of the GDA.

The PML-Q had given the government two-week deadline to meet its demands, which ended on Thursday. The party had announced that it would remain out of the cabinet till the fulfillment of its demands.

Soon after a meeting with a government delegation, PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi had said: “PTI has assured us to redress our grievances within a week. In case the promises made to us in today’s meeting are not met in a week, there will be no next round of talks on the matter.”

He said the PTI had agreed to empower the ministers belonging to the PML-Q ministers — two in Punjab and one at the Centre — besides giving share in administrative powers in Gujrat, Chakwal and Bahawalpur districts and Malikwal, Phalia and Daska tehsils.

It has been learnt that non-distribution of development funds, particularly in Punjab, is one of the common complaints of the PML-Q as out of the Rs342 billion annual development budget in Punjab, only Rs70bn has so far been released.

Senior MQM leader and MNA Iqbal Mohammad Ali had told Dawn in the Parliament House that his party would remain out of the federal cabinet unless its demands, including development activities in Karachi and other parts Sindh, were met.

The government side also held meetings with Baloch leaders and assured them that all their grievances would be addressed.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2020

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