The government has steered its way out of choppy political waters by holding out promises of economic and administrative reforms and acceding to the main opposition party’s demands.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced at a news conference on Sunday that his government had accepted a raft of demands made by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
“I have told Mian Sahib (Nawaz Sharif) that we are positive about his demands and he replied, ‘if you are positive then we will not part ways with your party in Punjab’,” Gilani told the media after spending a hectic day calling almost all national leaders. “It is the national agenda now. We have to work together to guide the country out of crises.”
Sharif’s party immediately withdrew the deadline it had set the government following the prime minister’s pledge. However, another deadline looms for the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. Now Gilani’s party has to keep its pledge and fulfill the demands within 45 days.
The PML-N is in no mood to ease up just yet. Its leaders cautioned that they would keep a close eye on the implementation of the reforms.
Both Gilani and a PML-N spokesperson said that a three-member committee led by Senator Ishaq Dar would coordinate with the government on how to go ahead with the implementation of the reform agenda proposed by Sharif.
The latest conciliatory gesture on the part of the government comes on the heels of last week’s reversal of a fuel price hike – a key concession aimed at winning over estranged ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
Sharif’s party had also wanted fuel prices to remain unchanged. Along with that PML-N had called upon the government to probe corruption cases, reduce non-development spending by one third, and set up an independent election body.
The government briefly lost its slender majority in parliament after the MQM pulled out of the ruling coalition following a similar defection by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
“I have also called Maulana Fazlur Rehman and whether he rejoins the government, well, it is his prerogative, his own politics,” Gilani said when asked if he had invited the JUI-F to rejoin the ruling coalition.
Dar, a former finance minister, told a television channel that he would recommend a slimmed down version of the government to curtail non-development expenditures.
Referring to the politicians he had spoken to, Gilani said the response from other political leaders including Pakistan Muslim League-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and MQM’s Altaf Hussain was also positive.
A statement by the MQM from its Karachi media office said Hussain had welcomed Gilani’s gesture of accepting PML-N’s demands and voiced hope it would auger well for the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2011.