Consensus at midnight paves way for ‘PDM 2.0’

Published February 21, 2024
flanked by his father, Asif, and PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif, PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses a late-night presser to announce a deal over government formation.—Courtesy PPP
flanked by his father, Asif, and PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif, PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses a late-night presser to announce a deal over government formation.—Courtesy PPP

• Zardari named as next president, Shehbaz to be premier; PPP steers clear of federal cabinet
• PML-N to get National Assembly speaker slot, PPP will have its deputy speaker
• Senate chairmanship to go to PPP; deputy chairman to come from N-League

ISLAMABAD: After multiple rounds of talks spanning over one week, a consensus was reached between the PML-N and the PPP to share power in order to form the next government, claiming a comfortable majority in the lower house of parliament to clinch the slot of the prime minister.

In a joint press conference at Zardari House in the federal capital at midnight, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the PML-N and the PPP have sufficient numbers to form the federal government, with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif nominated as the candidate for the post of the prime minister.

Similarly, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari will be the joint candidate for the president’s office. About other coveted offices, such as the National Assembly speaker and the Senate chairman, the PPP chief said decisions in this regard had been made but their announcement would be made at a later stage.

The press conference was held after the PPP chief rushed to the residence of PML-N leader Ishaq Dar where Shehbaz Sharif was already present. After a thirty-minute huddle, they departed for Zardari House from where they disclosed the details of the deal to the media.

Other posts, governors

However, insiders told Dawn the PPP would not join the federal cabinet and that the NA speaker slot would go to the PML-N as per the deal reached between the two parties.

They claimed that the Senate chairmanship would go to the PPP, with Senator Yousaf Raza Gilani being tipped as the next chairman. The governorships in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab will also go to the PPP.

Sources said that the PML-N and the PPP would jointly form a government in Balochistan, and Sarfaraz Bugti “is so far” the likely contender for the CMship. In the Senate, the PML-N will get the slot of the deputy chairman whereas in the lower house, the deputy speaker will be from the PPP.

According to Article 91(2) of the Constitution, the first session of the National Assembly has to be summoned by Feb 29. On the first day of the NA session, after taking oath, members will elect the speaker and deputy speaker through a secret ballot. Following this, the new speaker will announce the schedule for the election of the PM. In the 336-strong house, 169 votes are required for PM’s election.

The incumbent president’s five-year term expired in September last year but he is still serving an extended period till the election of his successor. The election of the president will take place soon after the completion of the process of the government formation in the Centre and provinces as well as the Senate elections due in the first week of March.

‘Midnight presser’

“We pray the upcoming [coalition] government manages to overcome external and internal problems faced by the country,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari, adding that after the election of the prime minister, the presidential election will follow. “We are thankful to the PML-N for throwing its weight behind PPP candidate Asif Ali Zardari,” he added.

Speaking at the presser, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said they had asked the PTI to form its government in the Centre but the former ruling party failed to muster up the magic number of 169 required for the task. He claimed that the PML-N as well as its allied parties were ready to sit on the opposition benches had the PTI decided to form its government.

According to the PML-N leader, they will take everyone along to steer the country out of crises. Though the PML-N leader said the consensus was a positive outcome, the country was not out of the woods yet.

Mr Sharif said the PPP did not ask for ministries in the federal cabinet. PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari said they wanted to assure the public that this coalition would steer the country of the crises. In a question about the performance of the 16-month-long PDM government and apparent criticism by the PPP in this regard, the PML-N president said they were sitting here because of the “success of the PDM set-up”.

Road to Punjab government

Though the press conference did not mention anything about the Punjab government, speculations continue to make rounds that the PPP is interested in ministries in the provincial cabinet, which had apparently become a sticking point in the talks.

“If we give the PPP these coveted positions today, even then it does not want to join the PML-N government in the Centre,” he said.

He, however, expressed reservations about what would be the fate of the PML-N if the PPP joined the PTI to move a no-trust motion against Shehbaz Sharif — the upcoming premier. Earlier in the day, PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari told reporters outside the Supreme Court that the PML-N was responsible for the delay in the agreement.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2024

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