ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's opposition leader Nawaz Sharif Friday expelled the nationally ruling Pakistan People's Party from the Punjab provincial government, where it has been in coalition with his own party.
Punjab is the country's most populous province and the decision by Sharif, a former prime minister who leads the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), is likely to trigger renewed political confrontation in Pakistan.
The PML-N chief said that the decision had been taken after the parliamentary meeting held today, where senior party leader Ishaq Dar briefed party members on the 45 day deadline and the developments during the period. He added that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif will soon form a new cabinet.
Sharif told a news conference that he made the move because of the central government's "failure" to end corruption and improve the economy.
"We are parting ways, we are bidding goodbye to the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) today," Sharif said.
Sharif said that this was a dangerous turn and his party had tried to avoid it. He said that the party had followed the path of reconciliation for the sake of democracy but there was no result.
The PPP is a minor party in the provincial coalition.
In early January, Sharif made 11 key demands, including that the central government investigate corruption scandals, reduce non-development spending by one third, and set up an independent election body.
The PPP last month accepted one of the demands, reversing a controversial fuel price hike, amid pressure from the public and its national coalition partners.
"The government made no satisfactory progress on even one of our 10 points," said Sharif, adding that his party wanted the government to take steps to end poverty and unemployment, and shortages of power and gas.
The PML-N, which regularly criticises the government over allegations of corruption, often linked to President Asif Zardari, gave federal authorities 45 days to act on the demands, which expired on Tuesday, said Sharif.
He claimed the PPP government was "not sincere" in implementing court rulings and was "protecting" corrupt elements.
"Sharif's decision may trigger political tension and plunge the country into fresh crisis," political analyst Nazir Naji said.
‘10-point agenda is a part of PPP manifesto’
PPP leader Raza Rabbani, while addressing a press conference after the PMLN’s announcement, said that the 10-point agenda was a part of PPP’s manifesto: “The 10 point agenda given by the PML-N are a part of the Pakistan Peoples Partys manifesto.”
“If we were playing egoistic politics, then we would have said the 10 point agenda is also a part of our coalitions partys manifesto. But we are not playing egoistic politics. We want politics of reconciliation,” he said.
Rabbani added that the PPP will apply for opposition benches in the Punjab Assembly and it will also name a candidate for the opposition leader slot.
‘PPP to continue policy of reconciliation’
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, said the PPP-led government would continue its policy of reconciliation and consultation.
Expressing her views on PLM-N’s she said it would now play a role of strong opposition in Punjab Assembly.
She said that PPP will not play a role that brings political instability or derails the democratic process in the country.
"We will try our best to stop clashes for strengthening of institutions", she said.
The minister said PLM-N decision to form government with the Unification Block was against the spirit of Charter of Democracy and termed today a "black day for democracy".
Awan said that the PML-N chief has only criticized PPP leadership and its politics but failed to give any alternative road map.
She said that Punjab was the biggest province and impact ofpolitical instability there could spread to other parts of the country.
The minister said in this situation the country demands unity among all political parties on important national issues.
PPP to play senior ombudsman's role: Babar Awan
Babar Awan, minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs said that PPP would play the role of senior ombudsman in Punjab and termed the day "a doleful day for democracy".
He said that at the time of the formation of the Punjab government, PPP could have formed its government excluding PML-N but the PPP leadership did not ignore PML-N and upheld the Charter of Democracy (CoD) as it had been agreed upon by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
"It is amazing to see that the coalition governments are intact in all provinces other than Punjab which exposes the attitude adopted by PML-N towards the CoD," he said.
Babar Awan said that PPP had always exhibited a positive approach towards Nawaz’s party. He said PPP was not involved in the disqualification of the Sharifs, saying that it was the federal government which decided to appeal against their disqualification.
He also criticised the formation of the Unification Bloc and he dispelled the impression that the country is heading towards mid-term elections.
PML-N asked to review their decision: Malik
Federal Minister for Interior Rehman Malik said that the PML-N leadership should review their decision for the sake of the democratic process in the country.
Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House, he said that at this stage the country is facing a lot of problems and political parties should play their role in strengthening democracy.
He said that every step was taken to stop corruption.