The poisoned chalice

The PPP and the PML(N) finally agree to form the government

The agreement by the PPP and PML(N) to form the government was probably not complicated by the need to ensure that Mian Shehbaz Sharif had the numbers in the National Assembly to form the government, but the need to ensure that there was a majority in the electoral college to make Asif Zardari President again. The numbers would have come not just from the two parties coming together, but also from the joining of several smaller parties. There would also have been the consideration of the provincial governments, which would have been needed to give the Presidency to Mr Zardari.

The provinces would have loomed large in the discussion, because the PPP also staked a claim to the Punjab and KP governorships, which would also fall to the federal government. The PPP also claimed the Chairmanship of the Senate and the Deputy Speakership of the National Assembly, which would represent the other highest offices at the Centre. It would not accept ministries, but would sit in the opposition. It might not be able to obtain the Leadership of the Opposition, which would probably go to the leader of the largest group in the House, the Sunni Ittehad Council, which the PTI-backed independents had joined only the day before, so as to get their share of reserved seats. With the formation of the government, it becomes clear that the earlier PML(N) readiness to sit on the opposition benches showed that there was a possibility of the PPP and the PTI in its SIC avatar forming the government.

Whoever made the government, it was clear that this was because of immense challenges ahead. No one really wants to hold office now, even though the very purpose of contesting elections is to take office. But with the very first task of the government being obtaining sa new IMF programme, while walking a tightrope between inflation and default, all the while facing an officialdom which wants vast sums, any government thrown up by this National Assembly would be bound to have difficulties. It is symptomatic that the PPP has opted to remain out of government, and thus able to dissociate itself from any measures that the government might take. However, the government’s very weakness might prove its strength, as it is not long to passing the next budget, which the PPP must either support, however unpopular it is, or bring down the government.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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