Extended coalition…


The PPP is keen to induct as many parties in the coalition at the centre as it can for two reasons. Firstly, to ensure a comprehensive majority in the National Assembly to ward off any possible threat to its government and secondly to be able to enforce some of the crucial economic reforms that have led the IMF to withhold the much-needed final instalment of an $11.3 billion loan package. There is little hope of the PML(N) joining the coalition as it believes it can win more seats in the next elections while remaining in the opposition than if it joined the coalition. What the PPP is likely to achieve in the end is an extended coalition rather than a government of national consensus.

The PPP-led government failed to legislate on RGST and flood surcharge because of opposition from other parties including some of its own coalition partners. It had to beat a retreat on the issue of petroleum prices also. With pressures mounting from the IMF and the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Working Group on Economics and Finance, it can no longer afford to ignore the implementation of major structural reforms, including in the energy sector. In months to come, it will have to get the budget, with a number of unpopular measures, through the parliament. For this it has to have allies it can depend on. As things stand the government is eyeing support from the PML(Q) which has 50 seats in the National Assembly. The PML(Q) needs PPPs crucial support in the Senate elections next year when 20 Senators belonging to the party are to vacate their seats. Further, its future in its erstwhile stronghold Punjab cannot be secured without an understanding with the PPP. In addition, it also hopes to get important slots in the federal cabinet. What stands in its way is an opposition from some of its own leaders for reasons of a personal nature.

The extension of the coalition would be welcomed in so far as it helps in the enforcement of the economic reforms. One expects that with the PML(Q) providing strength to the federal government, the Sindh administration would be encouraged to improve the law and order situation in Karachi with the required firmness. One hopes that the extended coalition does not lead to destabilisation of the Punjab government, though.