Senator Ishaq Dar stepped down on Wednesday as the deputy chairman of a commission tasked with implementing the 18th Amendment.
The resignation by the parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) comes just a day after the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) decided to form a broad-based government with the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) on board. The move, according to political analysts, is aimed at isolating the PML-N, and form a grand alliance ahead of the 2013 elections.
Senator Dar is reported to have sent a four-page resignation letter to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in which he said that in view of “some recent developments”, there was no justification for his party to continue with its representation on the implementation commission. “I therefore tender my resignation,” he added.
In the letter, Dar goes through his reasons for resignation at length, which ostensibly include the devolution of the Higher Education Commission as well as a dispute over the transfer of government assets from the federal to the provincial level.
Dar said that while he was abroad, the commission decided to transfer the assets of the several ministries from the federal to the provincial level. He said that he felt that the decision was in violation of the Federal Financial Rules and when he pointed this out at subsequent meetings, his view was ignored.
Dar also cited similar differences over the transfer of federal employees to the provinces, saying that such a move would require an act of Parliament, a view that the rest of the commission disagreed with. He also disagreed with the government’s decision to devolve the HEC.
In recent months, the PPP has been actively gearing up for an election campaign. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Gilani announced that the party would like to form a grand coalition with the PML-Q, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Jamiat e Ulema e Islam (JUI-F).
There have also been rumours of the PML-Q and the MQM being in active negotiation with the PPP over cabinet positions. PML-Q is reported to have asked for the position of Punjab governor for one of its members in addition to an agreement with the PPP over the 2012 Senate elections.
In recent months, the PML-Q, the PPP and the MQM have all made a move for the PML-N’s electoral heartland in Punjab. All three parties have announced their support for a partition of Punjab that would create a new province in the Seraiki belt. The PML-N is opposed to the idea, largely out of fear that the party would be weakened at the national level.
The PML-N, for its part, seems to have moved itself into a political corner. Earlier this year, the party kicked out the PPP from the ruling coalition it leads in the Punjab Assembly, hoping to rely on dissenters from the PML-Q to complete a majority in the provincial legislature.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2011.