The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government has been given some breathing space as the Nawaz League is reluctant to commit to a role in the move to oust Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
With 90 seats in the National Assembly, the PML-N has a major stake in the power game which has seen high drama over the past couple of days.
The PML-Q, which theoretically has 50 seats in the National Assembly, has also emerged as a powerful player which can make or break the government.
The provincial capital saw intense political activities on Monday as Mr Gilani, after holding a first round of talks with leaders of the two main PML factions, cancelled his return to Islamabad in the evening after receiving a phone call from President Asif Zardari asking him to make fresh efforts to garner support for his ‘minority’ government.
The prime minister held a two-hour meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and then went to the Chaudhrys of Gujrat.
JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri also called on the Chaudhrys to persuade them against backing the government.
Although scheduled before the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s decision to sit on the opposition benches, the meeting between Mr Gilani and Shahbaz Sharif mainly focused on the emerging political situation.
Shahbaz Sharif reportedly consulted his elder brother Nawaz Sharif before telling Mr Gilani that the PML-N would give a final word after its central organising committee’s meeting due in Islamabad on Tuesday.
The party’s parliamentarians will also attend the meeting. The prime minister was assured that the N-League would neither table a no-trust motion against him nor support any such move from other quarters.
“We won’t allow anyone to derail the democratic process.” A PML-N leader was apprehensive that undemocratic forces were behind the move to topple the PPP-led government. He said the step would not be of any benefit to the N-League.
He claimed that his party had credible reports that it was being trapped in the name of dislodging the government at a time when political and economic conditions of the country did not allow fresh elections.
“Either the subsequent electoral exercise will be unduly delayed or the process will not be held in a free and fair manner.”
He said the fear was based on reports that the ‘powers that mattered’ had barred some important political figures from joining the PML-N.
Because of such reports, Nawaz Sharif stopped leaders of his party from exploring possibilities of reaching some understanding with the MQM.
A visibly subdued Gilani told reporters at the residence of PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain that his hosts had assured him of their support.
But unlike in the past, this time the Q-League put the condition of good governance for its backing.
“We’ve discussed the price hike, reformed general sales tax, Namoos-i-Risalat and other national issue and want the government to reduce the oil prices,” Chaudhry Shujaat said.
He said his party would take a decision on the situation at a meeting scheduled to be held in Islamabad.
The prime minister said he saw no reason to quit because he had been supported by all parties in parliament although he did not represent the majority.
He, however, said he would not hesitate to face a no-trust motion or take recourse to parliament for a vote of confidence if asked by the president.
Ahmad Hassan adds from Islamabad: The central working committee of the PML-Q will meet on Wednesday to discuss the political situation in the light of the Gilani-Shujaat meeting.
Earlier indications were the meeting would be held on Tuesday, but PML-Q information secretary Kamil Ali Agha told Dawn from Lahore that it was scheduled for Wednesday, apparently to give sufficient time to the members to reach the federal capital.
According to sources, a large group in the party, led by Faisal Saleh Hayat, is against supporting the coalition and it is likely to make its presence felt at the meeting.
Mr Hayat, they said, remained quiet most of the time during the Gilani-Shujaat talks and the media interaction which followed.
The sources said that Chaudhry Shujaat made it clear to Mr Gilani that he should first put his own house in order, meaning immediate steps for providing relief to people and getting rid of allegations of corruption.