Three main ruling coalition partners — Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) — on Monday assured the government of their support in taking ‘tough’ decisions, while Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is set to call a meeting of all the allies to take a unanimous decision on how to overcome both the political and economic crises in the country.
The PM is also scheduled to head a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday (today) where he will take all the members into confidence on the decisions taken by the PML-N leadership in London recently.
A day after returning from the UK and the UAE, Prime Minister Sharif on Monday started consultations with allied parties in the ruling coalition, apparently to apprise them of the decisions taken by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif during the premier’s recent meetings with him in London.
The prime minister met heads of three main coalition parties — Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman of the JUI-F and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the MQM.
It has been learnt that PM Shehbaz will soon call a meeting of all the allies in the government to take a unanimous decision on how to overcome both the political and economic crises in the country.
One of the most difficult paths the government is likely to take is the withdrawal of subsidy on petrol and its price is likely to jump by Rs50 per litre. Presently, the government is reportedly bearing over Rs100 billion a month by providing subsidies on petroleum products.
According to the Prime Minister Office, the PM in a one-on-one meeting with Maulana Fazal said national interest will remain supreme while taking ‘difficult’ decisions. He stressed the need for collective efforts of the ruling coalition to provide relief to the people and strengthen democracy in the country.
The prime minister was quoted as saying: “Adherence to democracy and the Constitution guarantee progress and stability of Pakistan.”
He vowed that essential items will be available to people in the market at affordable rates. In this connection, all available resources will be utilised, he added.
Both leaders thoroughly discussed the prevailing economic and political crises confronting the government.
Meanwhile, former finance minister Ishaq Dar, who is presently in London with Nawaz Sharif, said on a private TV channel that the government should not be afraid of the situation and take it head-on. “If we do not tackle the acute economic situation today, will angels descend to rescue us,” he questioned.
The PML-N leader maintained Pakistan’s economic situation had not deteriorated to the extent that it could not be reversed.
Federal minister Qamar Zaman Kaira of the PPP said his party was ready to jointly face the consequences of “tough” decisions. “We will make decisions in the best interest of the country whatever their political cost will be,” he added.
He said it would be unfair to the country if the government, which came into power to rectify the wrongs of the previous PTI regime, went back home without providing any solution to the problems.
On the other hand, the MQM opposed fresh elections on the grounds that it would be a financial debacle for the ordinary citizens despite the fact that the decision would be in the party’s favour, and urged the prime minister to act fast and take a tough call related to the economic revival.
Talking to the media on Monday, MQM-Pakistan Convener Siddiqui said it will be in the favour of his party to contest polls as soon as possible because they will recover the 14 National Assembly seats that he claimed had been “snatched” and given to the PTI, however for the common man it would be disastrous.
He said the MQM-P believed if elections were held any moment, the interim government would overburden the general public with difficult decisions as it would not have any affiliation with the masses, which was unfair.
Flanked by fellow party leader and IT Minister Syed Aminul Haq and Syed Shakeel Ahmed, a member of the Rabita Committee, Siddiqui said the economic situation was bleak and it was the responsibility of the politicians to take charge and restore the trust of the masses.
The MQM chief also said apart from stabilising the economy, the government has to initiate electoral reforms before announcing the date for elections.
To a question over granting extension to the army chief, Siddiqui said: “Many things are beyond discussion, but institutions are more important than individuals, and continuity of the system is essential for all entities.”
“This can be done (electoral reforms) in a week, as all the parties have already done their homework, and if they need we can offer our working paper as well,” he said, adding the next elections should not be held without a fresh census and new delimitations.