President, Asif Ali Zardari in meeting with Delegation of Muslim League-Q headed by its President, Ch.Shujaat Hussain at Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad. - File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Top leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), including Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) are expected to again meet at the Presidency on Sunday to formally put their seal on the power-sharing agreement, sources in the two parties told Dawn here on Saturday.

The two parties have decided to sign the agreement without seeking — even as a formality — the approval of their respective highest executive bodies.

But there was no immediate word about when a formal induction of PML-Q members in the federal cabinet will take place, although there was speculation that it could happen as early as on Monday before the prime minister leaves for a visit to France on Tuesday.

Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, neither confirmed nor denied Sunday’s meeting, but said the PML-Q leaders had requested for a meeting with the President on the same day.

On the other hand, a source in the PML-Q said party leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his cousin Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi would present the final draft of the agreement in their meeting with President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani on Sunday.

The draft, he said, had been prepared in the light of discussions that had been going on between the two parties for the past four months, particularly the meetings held on Thursday and Friday.

The source claimed that the PPP had agreed to create the post of deputy prime minister without amending the constitution and that it could be done either by an executive order or by amending the rules of business of the government.

In the Friday’s meeting, which was also attended by PML-Q parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Faisal Saleh Hayat who had opposed the deal in the past, the two sides had decided to sign a written agreement that would also be made public. “Yes, the agreement will be made public and there will be a public announcement of the alliance between the two parties,” Mr Hayat told Dawn on Saturday.

Mr Hayat said all reports about the number of ministries and portfolios his party was expected to get in the new set-up were based on speculations. He, however, claimed that the two sides had almost had an agreement on a formula under which ministries would be distributed among the coalition partners.

Replying to a question, he claimed that the two sides had agreed to create the new office of the deputy prime minister and that legal experts of the two parties, whom he did not identify, had been discussing ways how to do it. He said one view was that there would be a need to amend the constitution for this purpose whereas another group believed this could be done merely by changing the rules of business as, he said, had been done in India and Britain.

It is interesting to note that while the PML-Q has been constantly giving out claimed details of its talks with the PPP leadership, the other side has remained tight-lipped.

Mr Hayat, who had formed a forward bloc in the PPP after the 2002 elections to become a minister in the military regime of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, said the two parties had agreed to continue their alliance on a long-term basis and cooperate with each other not only in the forthcoming Senate polls but also in the next general and local bodies elections.

He denied he had given his assent to his party leadership for the alliance with the PPP in return of some personal assurances for himself.

“I have told President Zardari that even after having a seat adjustment with us, the PPP will be free to field candidates in his constituency (NA-88) in Jhang, besides the adjacent constituency of my brother and that of (his party colleague) Raza Hayat Hiraj from Khanewal,” he said, adding that he wanted this point to be included in the written agreement.

Both Mr Babar and Mr Hayat said there was no need for convening the meetings of the respective central executive committees of the two parties for a final approval of the power-sharing agreement.

Mr Hayat said the party had already carried out an extensive exercise of consultations and it had been decided in principle that no central executive committee meeting was needed on this issue. He said party leaders had already consulted not only CEC members but all its parliamentarians and even prospective candidates for local government elections.

Similarly, Mr Babar said there was no need for the CEC since “senior party leaders having representation in the CEC” and the core committee had already authorised the president to negotiate and finalise the deal with the PML-Q.

It was because of this authorisation that the prime minister kept himself away from all the negotiations, he said.

Sources in the PPP told Dawn that certain elements within the party had disapproved befriending a party against which they struggled while Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf was in power. But political observers believe this group will not be in a position to influence a decision on the new rapprochement.

Former foreign minister and now a dissident, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, became the first PPP figure to publicly oppose the move as he was quoted as telling reporters at Multan Airport on Saturday that the PPP should not rush into a coalition that he said would not last long.

According to a PPP source, Senator Raza Rabbani has made up his mind to quit as federal minister for inter-provincial coordination in protest when the PML-Q joins the cabinet. Similarly, part of the PML-Q so-called group of “like-minded” dissidents is also against the accord and its chief Salim Saifullah has called a new conference to speak about it on Sunday.

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