ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties on Monday intensified criticism of the government’s economic policies in the National Assembly, but appeared to be shying away from posing any direct threat to an administration that has lost parliamentary majority.
There was hardly any direct reference to a no-trust motion against the prime minister as the house met for the first time since the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) decided to quit the ruling coalition.
As Prime Minster Yousaf Raza Gilani remained busy in Lahore in trying to find new partners to keep his fragile ruling coalition intact, several cabinet members in the house appeared humbled by the latest political developments.
Amid anti-government chants and desk-thumping by opposition lawmakers and back-to -back walkouts against the increase in petroleum prices, the Awami National Party (ANP), the only remaining ally, came to the government’s rescue.
ANP Chief Asfandyar Wali Khan suggested that parliamentary leaders from all political parties should have a meeting with Premier Gilani on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of reducing petroleum prices back to their previous level.
The proposal proved to be a breather for the government as Deputy Speaker Faisal Kundi adjourned the house for Tuesday afternoon after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also endorsed it.
MQM members, who staged a token walkout from the house to protest against the fuel price increase, followed by members of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), had some reservation on the adjournment motion, but Kundi decided to go ahead with it.
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the increase in petroleum prices last month had shaken the government.
“The government is scrambling … it is facing problems because of its own actions. It has lost many opportunities to improve governance, but it still has a chance if the prime minister announces a strategy to resolve problems,” Nisar said in his speech.
He then asked the government to immediately announce a withdrawal of the increase; the demand punctuated by desk thumping and sloganeering from members of his party.
But a more direct threat to the government came from PML-N’s Khwaja Saad Rafiq who called for improving governance and throwing out whom he described as corrupt ministers. “All of you will be going home if you don’t improve governance,” Rafiq said while addressing members of the treasury benches.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2011.
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