The Centre and Punjab are firmly in the grip of the PML-N’s tiger. It is also likely that it will form a coalition government in the province of Balochistan. Even in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the PTI has scored its biggest gains, the PML-N may end up forming a government if it plays its cards right.
Preliminary meetings, attended by the top echelons of the PML-N have already been held to put these plans into action, sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune.
PML-N President Nawaz Sharif has been confined in his Jati Umra residence, brainstorming with the senior party leadership as well as some trusted senior bureaucrats to sketch out a plan of action regarding the future political course of his party.
This is what the plan looks like so far: in Punjab, the PML-N will go solo to form a government as it has a solid two-thirds majority.
The picture in the Centre is also encouraging. Out of the total 272 general seats in the National Assembly, 136 are required to gain the simple majority needed to form a government. The PML-N currently has 130 seats, and only needs six more to secure the prime ministerial slot; certainly not a difficult task, to say the least. According to Senator Tariq Azeem, the PML-N won’t even need to ally with a party to gain these seats, as independents are likely to flock to their side.
But according to reports from Raiwind, Nawaz Sharif is keen on the PML-F also joining his government in the Centre. The PML-F’s Pir Sadruddin Shah, who enjoys good personal relations with the Sharifs, will likely be well accommodated as well. It is also likely that some allied Baloch nationalists will be given positions in the Center as well, with the aim of making the government appear as inclusive as possible.
Where this province is concerned, it seems the PML-N chief is in two minds. Sources say he is contemplating whether the PML-N should try for a coalition government or instead let the PTI try and rule.
Under the 18th amendment, the party which has a majority in the house has to be invited to form the government but this time Nawaz is contemplating making the government in K-P with coalition partners due to certain reasons.
The PML-N’s fear is that if the PTI makes a government in K-P, then it will give a tough time to them as far as dealing with the war on terror is concerned, as well as on the conflict in the tribal areas and relations with ISAF and Afghanistan. They said that due to the strategic location of K-P, Nawaz can’t afford any opposition, obstacle or intervention from a PTI-led government in the province when dealing with these issues. Party members have suggested to Nawaz that if he opts to try for K-P, then he has to reach out to the JUI-F, JI and other parties as well as independents. And in fact, that process has already begun, as Nawaz has reportedly made phone calls to JUI-F and JI chiefs and has called a party meeting on Monday at Raiwind where this issue will be discussed.
The other issue which has been finalised was that nationalists will be taken on board in this province.
The party discussed choices for chief minister of Balochistan, but one problem is how to resolve the tussle between Sanaullah Zahri and Akhtar Mengal, after the killing of Zehri’s relatives.
Senator Pervez Rashid officially urged the election authorities to immediately announce the withheld results from the province. He said there is lot of confusion and unrest in the province and no party is in the position to decide about the future government. He said withholding polling results may spoil the transparency and neutrality of the election.
The new who’s who – a work in progress.
Nawaz will almost certainly be prime minister, and there is talk of a former ambassador as foreign minister.
After the Raiwind meeting concluded, Senator Ishaq Dar has started already started his work his work as de-facto finance minister while sitting in his office in Lahore’s Model Town.
After finalising the cabinet list, speaker and deputy speaker, the party is expected to ask for an NA session. This should happen within about 10 days.
Not smooth sailing all the way
It’s not all hunky dory just yet; while the PML-N controls the NA, it remains subservient to other in the Senate. Here, the PPP has 41 seats in the 104-member house against the PML-N’s 14.
This means that it can still face daunting challenges when trying to pass any legislation because every new law routes through both houses of Parliament separately before getting a final nod from the president. To pass a law, a simple majority is needed while a constitutional amendment needs a two-thirds majority in both houses.
If the PPP stays in opposition, it along with any of the other parties that would be sitting on opposition benches in the Senate can give a tough time to the PML-N in terms of passing legislation. This would be a reversal of the scene of the 90’s when the PPP faced exactly this problem.
However, if the PML-N opts to ally with the PPP it would have serious political implications given the abysmally low popularity graph of the PPP.
The PML-N will gain some Senate seats from Punjab in the 2015 Senate elections based on its increased strength in the provincial assembly. This, along with seats from Balochistan and K-P, will augment its strength, but it would remain short of getting a simple majority in the Senate. Seems a spot of reconciliation will be needed to smooth the legislative gears in the years to come.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2013.