ISLAMABAD: The government’s task of getting approved the Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) bill from the National Assembly has become more difficult with the exit of JUI-F from the ruling coalition and the PPP’s reported tense relations with its two other partners, especially the MQM.
Although the sudden decision of JUI-F to quit the government poses no immediate threat to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s position in the National Assembly, political observers believe that it could have an impact on the government’s strategy on the RGST in the lower house.
After JUI-F’s exit, the PPP, with its 128 members, is left with the support of 25-member MQM, 13-member ANP, a dozen independent MNAs, including 11 from Fata, five from PML-Functional and one from BNP-A. This adds up to a strength of 185 on treasury benches — only 13 more than the required 172.
The strength on opposition benches in the lower house has reached 155. Two seats are lying vacant. Political experts believe that the PML-Q, with which PPP has already established contacts, can acquire a more decisive role in a future set-up.
As the PML-Q is riddled with defectionst, it is very unlikely that all its 50 members will abide by the decision of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat.
The observers think if the opponents of the proposed RGST will stand by their words and vote accordingly, it is almost impossible for the government to carry the controversial bill, still stuck up in the NA’s Standing Committee on Finance, through the lower house which will put a pressure on the prime minister to seek a vote of confidence.
The recent political developments have surprised many political observers, leaving them baffled about the rationale behind the government’s recent, intentional or unintentional, acts of annoying its coalition partners at a time when the National Assembly’s crucial session is only one week away.
The fragile coalition received a jolt on Monday when Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, while speaking to traders, launched a vitriolic attack on MQM by blaming it for targeted killings in Karachi.
Out of the 60 people arrested so far in suspicion of targeted killings, 26 belonged to MQM and the rest to ANP, Sunni Tehrik and MQM-Haqiqi, Mr Mirza said in his speech, prompting an immediate reaction from the two coalition partners.
However, living up to its reputation, the MQM did not announce any major decision and merely issued a statement that it would take up the matter with the president and the prime minister after Ashura.
With the announcement of JUI-F that its eight legislators will now sit on the opposition benches in the 342-member National Assembly, the prime minister, who needs the support of 172 members to stay in power, is left with 185.
However, as the JUI-F’s decision, according to some political observers, should not be considered final, the MQM’s stance has gained more significance.
The numerical strength of 10 political parties having representation in the National Assembly clearly shows that it will be impossible for Mr Gilani to remain the leader of the house if the MQM also decides to part ways with the government.
However, so far no party has shown any intention to make an effort to bring a change in the present set-up and political analysts believe that the government will survive even if it goes for a retreat on the RGST issue like it did on the issue of NRO.