ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was meeting Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is also the president of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), the biggest opposition party in the National Assembly, on Monday in a bid to head off a possible vote of no confidence after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) quit the ruling coalition.
After holding a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was meeting with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) on Monday.
“The Prime Minister will discuss the political situation with Shahbaz Sharif and ways and means to resolve this crisis,” an official in Gilani’s office told Reuters before the meeting started.
Gilani’s government lost its parliamentary majority on Sunday after the MQM announced it would go into opposition because of what it said were unfriendly government fuel price policies.
The MQM pullout plunged the country into a deep political crisis.
It also added to uncertainty over the government’s struggle to meet economic policy demands placed on it by the International Monetary Fund in return for an $11 billion loan.
The Karachi Stock Exchange’s benchmark 100-share index was down 1.72 per cent, or 206.56 points, at 11815.90, on turnover of 43.44 million shares by 11:09 a.m.
The MQM’s withdrawal means that if opposition parties close ranks, they would be able to force a no-confidence vote on Gilani in parliament.
If the crisis deepens, an early election may be called.
Gilani is also due to meet Chaudhry Shujaat, leader of the PML-Q. “He indicated he would seek our support,” said a party official.
The MQM pullout came after the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) quit the coalition last month after Gilani sacked one of its ministers.
While analyst doubt that Gilani would see out his term, which ends in 2013, the chances of the opposition forming a new ruling alliance are slim. The PML-N, headed by Nawaz Sharif, does not enjoy close ties with other opposition parties.
The political paralysis will make it even harder for leaders to tackle a wide array of problems frustrating millions of Pakistanis — from corruption, to poverty to suicide bombings carried out by Taliban militants.
Foreign direct investment fell by 21.5 per cent in the first five months of 2010 to $573.3 million because of factors such as militant violence.
The stock market closed up 28 per cent in 2010, partly due to foreign buying.