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PML-N, PPP on collision course, yet again

February 19, 2011

The PML-N, the sources said, was likely to set a timeframe for the PPP to come out of the provincial government on its own before taking the drastic step of throwing it out. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) are heading for a confrontation as the PML-N is determined to expel the PPP from the Punjab coalition government after Feb 23 — the deadline set by the party for implementing its 10-point “reforms agenda”.

Political analysts see the recent statements of the two Punjab ministers, PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah and PPP’s Raja Riaz, as an indication that the two parties are on a warpath as the 45-day deadline for implementing the agenda, presented by Nawaz Sharif last month, is just four days away.

Talking to media personnel in Lahore, Rana Sanaullah categorically said that his party would remove the PPP from the coalition government over the federal government’s failure to implement the “reforms agenda”.

On the other hand, Senior Minister Raja Riaz held a news conference during which he accused Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif of indulging in horse-trading to save his government in case the PPP is removed from the coalition.

Sources in the PML-N told Dawn that in the previous party meetings, there was a consensus that the time had come to say goodbye to the PPP from the Punjab government.

The PML-N, the sources said, was likely to set a timeframe for the PPP to come out of the provincial government on its own before taking the drastic step of throwing it out.

The PML-N members discussed the possible future strategies and there was a big group within the party which was in favour of launching a mass mobilisation campaign on the issue of price hike and corruption.

This is not for the first time that the members of the two parties have aimed their guns on each other and the nation has been witnessing a ‘love-and-hate game’ between them since Feb 2008 elections after which the two parties had become coalition partners at the centre, though briefly, and in Punjab province.

The PML-N quit the federal government on the issue of restoration of deposed judges.

The two parties joined hands once again when the PPP decided to impeach former president Pervez Musharraf in August 2008.

But the alliance was again brief and they parted ways when PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari decided to contest presidential elections in Sept 2008.

Later, the disqualification of the Sharif brothers as electoral candidates by courts and imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab served to widen the gulf between the two parties.

However, after restoration of deposed judges in March 2009, the two sides stopped issuing statements against each other.

The political skirmishes continued between the two parties on various issues, including the controversial Kerry-Lugar Bill, National Reconciliation Ordinance and the proposed accountability law.

However, the two parties witnessed a good working relationship during this period as well on the platform of the parliamentary committee that drafted constitutional amendments.

The PML-N set a six-day deadline to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to give a “yes” or “no” to the party’s 10-point agenda and threatened to sack PPP ministers from the Punjab cabinet in case of a reply in negative.

However, the prime minister managed to overcome the political crisis by persuading the MQM back to treasury benches and then calling Nawaz Sharif to express his willingness to implement the PML-N’s “reforms agenda”, mostly comprising the party’s old demands to remove corrupt ministers from the federal cabinet, passage of much-delayed new accountability law, reduction in the cabinet size, cut in non-development expenditures, steps to end power and gas loadshedding and appointment of honest men as heads of corporations and other government departments.

After the prime minister’s telephonic call to Mr Sharif on Jan 9, the PML-N said it would not sack the PPP ministers in Punjab, but warned the political crisis was not over yet.