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Pakistan's ruling party in crisis negotiations

Pakistan's ruling party in crisis negotiations

Pakistan's U.S.-allied ruling party scrambled on Wednesday to keep its fragile coalition government in power as its senior leaders met with two dissident political partners, urging them to rejoin the Cabinet.
A leader of one of the disgruntled parties, however, reiterated demands that the prime minister quit or be fired.
The political turmoil threatens to distract Pakistani lawmakers from tackling challenges ranging from a struggling economy to an Islamist insurgency that deeply worries U.S. officials overseeing the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
The Pakistan People's Party-led government faces a crisis with the secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement party quitting its two cabinet posts but remaining in the ruling coalition for now, while the Islamist Jamiat Ulema Islam party said it would defect to the opposition benches.
If the MQM decides to follow the JUI into the opposition, it could cost Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani the parliamentary majority he needs to continue his almost three-year-old government.
In an effort to forestall a possible collapse, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, a senior PPP lawmaker and envoy of President Asif Ali Zardari, held crisis meetings with MQM and JUI leaders overnight Wednesday, urging them to support an increasingly unpopular government and to remain part of the policymaking cabinet.
Malik asked the MQM leadership at a face-to-face meeting in the southern port city of Karachi to keep the key party's two Cabinet posts, local media reported.
JUI leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman's aide, Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, however, said their party would only return to the government if Zardari sacked Gilani. The premier must be punished for stirring up tensions when he dumped a JUI lawmaker from his Cabinet, Ahmad said.
The JUI has refused an offer to nominate a replacement Cabinet minister from its ranks.
"We will only consider working with the ruling party if President Asif Ali Zardari sacks Gilani," Ahmad said Wednesday following Rehman's meeting with Malik in the capital Islamabad.
Neither Malik nor an MQM spokesman was immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
Keeping nuclear-armed Pakistan stable is a major concern for Washington, which is already unhappy with militants' ability to use Pakistan's tribal regions as safe havens where they can plan attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has launched multiple army operations against militant groups who launch attacks on its soil, but, to the Americans' chagrin, it has held off on going after insurgents whose primary focus is fighting in Afghanistan.
Also Wednesday, army helicopters targeted militant positions in a remote area of the northwestern tribal region of Kurram, killing eight militants and wounding some others, said Asad Khan, a government administrator.
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Associated Press Writer Hussain Afzal contributed to this report from Parachinar.


Updated : 2021-05-12 06:41 GMT+08:00