Fork in the road

While the MQM is now willing to surrender to the authority of President Zardari, at least for the time being, a recalcitrant JUI(F) continues to act as a wild card. This led the President and Prime Minister to huddle together on Tuesday to decide how to deal with PPP’s strange bedfellows. Meanwhile, a meeting between Chaudhry Shujaat and Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the prospect of the two joining hands to change the government in Balochistan forced Chief Minister Raisani to make a dash to Islamabad to placate the JUI(F) chief. Despite an assurance by Raisani that as CM he considers himself answerable to the coalition of parties ruling the province rather than the PPP, the fate of his government continues to hang by a thread till JUI(F)’ s central executive committee takes a decision on the issue.

What intrigues the PPP, however, is the unusual move by the MQM to launch what looks like a concerted campaign to mend fences with not only Pir Pagara, PML(N) and PML(Q) but also the religio-political parties that it had lambasted and fought against for years. Despite the MQM having digested the snub administered to it by Sindh Home Minister, presumably enjoying the President’s blessings, any possible decision on its part to sit on the opposition benches would pose a threat to Prime Minister Gilani’s government. The PPP would then have to choose one of the two alternatives available to it: join hands with PML(Q) or seek the support of PML(N). The party feels uneasy about taking either of the courses.

The dependence on the PML(Q) would put PPP in a position where it will continue to be pressurised to meet the former’s demands, irrespective of whether they are to its liking or not. Topmost among these is likely to be a change of government in Punjab leading to a new coalition administration with the PML(Q) nominee in the driving seat. Any move in this direction could have worrisome repercussions. The PPP also feels uncomfortable with the idea of dependence on its traditional rival, the PML(N). The second course would, however, help the PPP and PML(N) reach an understanding, similar to the one on CoD, on strategic issues facing the country. There are many who think this could bring them together to jointly formulate much needed policies regarding economy, terrorism and foreign relations and, what is equally important, to ensure their continuation. – Pakistantoday