President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday offered some ‘personal’ guarantees to a top Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader opposed to the party’s alliance with the government, virtually sealing a power-sharing deal between the ruling PPP and the PML-Q.
PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain took Faisal Saleh Hayat, hitherto one of the most vocal critics of the emerging alliance, to a meeting with the president to seek some more assurances from him.
The most significant among the guarantees by the president was a promise that Hayat’s electoral rival, Syeda Abida Hussain, would not be given the PPP nomination to contest the 2013 elections from their shared constituency in the Jhang district of Punjab.
Though little details of the meeting emerged, officials privy to the interaction after an overnight meeting between Zardari and Shujaat said the offer was good enough to get Hayat to agree to the deal.
“After this last hindrance is removed, it is a done deal and both sides may sign a written agreement in a couple of days,” said an official familiar with the matter, eliminating whatever doubts were still there after Thursday’s meeting.
Besides Hayat’s opposition, the PML-Q had also sought the president’s assurances on some other key national issues in what appeared to be an attempt to make the deal look like something acceptable to the party’s voters.
Carving a new province out of Punjab was amongst the things agreed between the top leaders from both sides. The division of Punjab might hurt the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the political opponent of both PPP and PML-Q.
According to officials from both sides, a commission of prominent politicians would be established to evolve a mechanism for the creation of new provinces including one of Hazara region in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The president, according to reports by some private television channels, had also promised the PML-Q leadership that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) would not be devolved to the provinces as per initial plans to implement the 18th amendment.
Insiders said a draft agreement spelling out the details of political cooperation between the two parties had already been finalised and might be signed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Shujaat in the next 36 to 72 hours.
The PML-Q would then be joining the federal cabinet, possibly next week.
It was, however, not clear whether the two new allies would also push for stealing the government from the PML-N in Punjab. Gilani said in Multan earlier in the day that there were no such plans but sources close to the president said ‘anything is possible’.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2011.