The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) found itself increasingly isolated on Wednesday when the opposition charged at it and coalition partners either preferred to stay on the fence, or declined to extend much-needed support to the besieged government.
The government now plans on utilising the National Assembly session starting Thursday (today) to deflect some of that pressure.
“If they (the judiciary and the army) have cards, we also have options,” said a PPP leader, who is one of the lawmakers designated to deliver a hard-hitting speech on the assembly floor.
“We have already offered that we are ready to call early elections but their demands are never-ending,” he added.
The first day of the session is likely to be adjourned without any significant business due to the death of a sitting PPP MNA Azim Daultana in a car accident.
The real showdown will start from Friday when the government plans to play its cards, including calling for a confidence vote for Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari.
“We believe the parliament is representative of the people and its support is the verdict of the people. This move can suffice the sixth option given by the court in NRO implementation case”, another PPP lawmaker said.
“Some important legislation can also be moved in the house,” a separate lawmaker added, but declined to elaborate further, saying the party wants of keep its cards close.
Sources add that in ruling party’s inner circles, there are speculations that if the situation does not defuse in the coming days, the prime minister, after receiving a vote of confidence, might voluntarily resign for the ‘sake of the party.’
The PPP has called a meeting of its parliamentary party on Thursday, before the start of the National Assembly session.
The government is also considering calling a joint session of parliament next week to discuss and finalise recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.
Speaker National Assembly, who is currently abroad, has been asked to cut her visit short and return before the start of the joint session, sources said.
The coalition partners, however, are not thrilled.
“It is very clear that we will not be part of anything that can lead to escalation of tensions and confrontation between institutions,” secretary information of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid Kamil Ali Aga told The Express Tribune.
Party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has conveyed this to the government and has proposed that dialogue is the only way to defuse the situation, he added.
The party has also advised President Zardari to review the decision of not writing to the Swiss courts. “We have told the PPP that they should review their decisions. If it can help defuse the situation, they should write the letter to Swiss courts. Sometimes, you have to take bitter pills when the situation demands,” a close associate of Shujaat said.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also called on the government ‘to refrain from a confrontation of institutions’ and called for matters to be resolved between institutions through dialogue.
In a statement issued late Wednesday night after the party’s Coordination Committee in Karachi and London met, the MQM said that it was in the country’s interest to resolve all issues.
The country is passing through a trying period and there are dangers lurking from all sides, the statement said. At such a time, the country cannot withstand a confrontation of any kind, it added.
MQM chief Altaf Hussain also spoke to President Asif Ali Zardari late Wednesday night.
Hussain reportedly advised President Zardari to refrain from a confrontation of institutions and said that issues needed to be dealt with patience and understanding.
The president, according to an MQM statement, agreed with Hussain and said that no step will be taken that will lead to confrontation.
Chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was also non-committal. A PPP delegation led by religious affairs minister Syed Khursheed Shah met Fazl, but was unsuccessful in getting JUI-F’s support.
“We have not seen the text of any resolution (in support of the government), if any, so far. We will decide after seeing its text,” Fazl said after his meeting with PPP leaders.
Fazl, and chief of PPP-Sherpao Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao confirmed they had received calls from opposition chief Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday, seeking their support in formulating a joint strategy in parliament against the government.
Boh Fazl and Sherpao confirmed that they gave a positive response to Nawaz, and added that further modalities would be discussed once they meet the PML-N leadership.
With additional input by our correspondent in Karachi
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2012.