The premier and the ruling party’s chairman donned the firefighting costume on Friday and attempted to put out the blazing rumours surrounding President Asif Ali Zardari’s illness.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari held separate meetings with the ruling party’s allies to seek reiteration of loyalty to the fragile administration in the event of any ‘serious challenge’ to their rule. Visitors to the prime minister secretariat on Friday included Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) top leaders and a group of parliamentarians from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), both government allies at the centre.
Bilawal’s presence at both meetings was purposeful – the government hoped to show that all is well and under control. According to officials privy to the meetings, both groups assured Gilani and Bilawal that they would back the government against all odds.
With more than 30 members in the National Assembly, the PML-Q’s support is a lifeline for the government. The visit of party’s President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, and his cousin Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, was therefore highly symbolic.
“We have supported the government and President Zardari through thick and thin in the past and will continue to do that,” a PML-Q statement quoted the party leaders as telling the premier.
Later, parliamentarians from the tribal areas, led by MNA Munir Orakzai, met the PPP leaders and assured them of their “full support to the government, come what may,” said an official statement.
Munir himself also confirmed to The Express Tribune that their support was sought, and assured, during the meeting.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2011.