‘Sidelined’ PPP sends warning shot to PML-N

Dar’s eleventh-hour diplomacy fails to woo key ally

Rizwan Shehzad   June 13, 2024


The relationship between the PPP and the PML-N appeared to be on thin ice as the former, a key ally in the ruling coalition, expressed its displeasure on Wednesday by making only a token appearance in the National Assembly’s budget session to send a warning shot to the government.

The PPP’s discontent became glaringly obvious in its merely symbolic participation after the ruling party turned a deaf ear to its concerns about the budget.

In a dramatic turn of events, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar had to make a beeline for PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-

Zardari’s chamber, pleading for the party’s attendance at the session.

Despite Dar’s eleventh-hour diplomacy, the PPP only sent three MNAs—Naveed Qamar, Khursheed Shah, and Ijaz Jakhrani—while the chairman and other key lawmakers were conspicuously absent, making it clear that the PPP felt taken for granted by the ruling party.

“The PML-N has violated the agreement that it reached with PPP before forming the government in the Centre as it has not taken any input from its key ally in the PSDP budget,” PPP Secretary Information Shazia Marri shared with The Express Tribune, “The government is taking us for granted.”

According to Marri, the agreement between the two parties stipulated that PML-N would consult PPP on the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). However, she claimed the government briefed a few PPP lawmakers only a few days prior and then left them high and dry.

The token presence in the budget session was a clear sign that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his government have not provided the reassurances the PPP demands, she added.

Marri said that if Dar hadn’t come to request Bilawal and assure the PPP that the government would address the issue, the PPP would not have participated in the session at all. In response to a question about the PPP’s next move, Marri said that it depends on how the government proceeds, as the ball is now in their court.

Responding to the question if PPP would help the government pass the budget, Marri said that the government still has time to address PPP’s concerns. “We are not blackmailers; we act responsibly,” she said, “but the government shouldn’t take us for granted.” She said that the PPP wants to subsidize farmers, strategize taxation and avoid regressive taxation.

PPP and PML-N hit a stumbling block on Tuesday when they failed to reconcile their differences over the proposed 18 per cent standard sales tax on agriculture inputs and machinery. The tax, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) insists on as part of its campaign to end tax exemptions in Pakistan, remains a bone of contention.

In addition, the PPP leadership is unhappy over load-shedding, importing wheat at the wrong time and the inquiry results as well as not giving relief to the agriculture sector in the budget. Feeling left out in the cold by the PML-N, the PPP leadership minced no words in expressing their displeasure as they lambasted the PML-N for sidelining a key coalition partner.

When asked about the PPP’s thin presence in the NA, Senator Sherry Rehman said that the PPP had agreed to support govt formation in the larger national interest after intense negotiations, saying that as part of both the parties’ agreement, “the PSDP of all four provinces was to be pre-agreed with the government.”

Had we been taken on board, the PPP stalwart said, we would have been able to positively contribute to the government’s budget-making process. “It is for this reason that PPP had token representation in protest during today’s budget speech session in the National Assembly,” Rehman said.

“It is our party’s position that the government must take the PPP into full confidence on important issues such as the budget,” she said, adding the PPP is also engaged with the PML-N to ensure that the agreement is implemented and any future misunderstandings can be avoided.

Both parties’ teams are meeting again tomorrow, she said, to ensure the implementation of the remainder of the agreement.

For the past few days, the coalition partners have not been on the same page after PPP accused PML-N of turning a deaf ear to its concerns about budget and taxation, saying the PM and his government should approach and address the issues if they needed continued support from the key ally.

Following a split mandate in the February 8 general elections, it was the PPP which had helped the PML-N to form the government in the centre after they both had reached an agreement and divided key constitutional offices, including PM, president, governors, chairman and deputy chairman of Senate and speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, between them.



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