A cornered Pakistan Peoples Party managed to carve itself some breathing space on Thursday.
The party was able to ‘partially’ garner support for a pro-democracy resolution, and a fresh vote of confidence for Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, from its uneasy allies. The move, if it sails through, would be a symbolic triumph for the besieged party amid growing civil-military tensions.
The party, however, had to agree to tone down what, in its original draft, would have been an anti-establishment parliamentary resolution containing veiled references of both, the military and the judiciary, conspiring against democracy.
Toning down the draft
All coalition partners, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party (ANP) and lawmakers from the tribal areas, put their weight behind the government at a meeting chaired by the prime minister.
However, as is always the case with votes of confidence, there is always a sense of uneasiness and uncertainty despite allies’ public stances.
The coalition parties’ meeting took place a day after the military publicly rebuked the prime minister for his comments on the army and intelligence chiefs’ replies to the Supreme Court in the Memogate scandal.
The snub came on the heels of a Supreme Court threat to disqualify the prime minister for non-compliance in the implementation case of National Reconciliation Ordinance verdict.
“We think all this is part of an ugly conspiracy against democracy and want to highlight it in the resolution,” said a PPP lawmaker who attended the meeting. “But, as our allies say, we should avoid any direct confrontation with the institution, we are redrafting it,” he added.
“What we prepared was an anti-establishment resolution but what can ultimately come to the house in a day or two will be more of a pro-democracy draft,” the ruling party official added.
Varying support from allies
The support from allies did not come in easy, though.
Top PPP leaders late Thursday night ‘stormed’ the residence of PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to convince him to support the resolution as well as the vote of confidence for Gilani.
Though both sides told media after the meeting that they were close to an agreement on all issues, insiders said some minor differences on the draft exist, and might delay the presentation of the resolution, otherwise expected on Friday.
They said another round of talks will be held on Friday before the National Assembly session resumes.
While the two larger coalition partners, PML-Q and MQM, insisted on redrafting the resolution to tone it down, two other coalition partners — the ANP and MPs from the tribal areas — assured the government of their unconditional support.
“We were, we are and we will be with you,” a participant quoted Haji Munir Ahmed Orakzai, the parliamentary leader of tribal lawmakers, as saying at the meeting. Similar sentiments, participants said, were expressed by the ANP.
All allies, however, reportedly vowed to support a fresh vote of confidence for the premier.
For the first time since the recent tensions emerged, the civil and military leadership will sit on the same table on Saturday for a meeting of the Defence Cabinet Committee. The meeting will be chaired by the prime minister and attended by the three services chiefs as well as key cabinet members.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2012.