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Muttehda Qaumi Movement leader, Dr.Farooq Sattar. – Photo by PPI

KARACHI: The second largest partner in Pakistan's weak coalition held crisis talks Wednesday after a prominent religious party walked out of the government, triggering fears of a domino effect.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has its powerbase among the Urdu-speaking majority in financial capital Karachi gathered party leaders at around 5:00 pm, a leading lawmaker said.

“The meeting of the MQM coordination committee has begun,” MP Haider Rizvi told AFP. The session was chaired by MQM leader and founder Altaf Hussain, on a conference call from self-imposed exile in London.

“We will discuss the current political situation and the ruling Pakistan People Party's (PPP) behaviour towards its allies,” Rizvi said.

Decisions will be taken “in the best interest of the country,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Farooq Sattar, head of MQM's parliamentary faction, earlier told AFP that an emergency meeting would review the departure of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUIF) from the government and forge a future strategy.

JUI-F walked out on Tuesday after PPP Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sacked one of its three cabinet ministers.

The government needs a simple majority of 172 members in the 342-seat national assembly, which has not been affected by JUIF's departure with only eight seats in the lower house of parliament.

But MQM support is crucial to the PPP coalition. Party relations have already soured over a surge in political violence in Karachi, which saw more than 155 people killed.

PPP has 128 lawmakers in the lower assembly and commands a majority of 184, based on coalition partners and allied independent members.

MQM has 25 seats in the federal parliament and could theoretically bring down the government unless the PPP can shore up replacement coalition partners.

The federal government's third coalition partner, the Awami National Party, on Tuesday pledged public support for the PPP after JUIF's withdrawal.