Gilani accepts 10 demands made by PML-N

Islamabad: In a climb down to prop up his fragile government, Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani accepted key 10 demands of the main opposition PML-N, including investigating graft charges.

The two parties have also reached an agreement on continuing the alliance between the PPP and PML-N in Punjab, the country’s most populous and politically crucial province, Mr. Gilani said.

People’s Party-led government had already rolled back an unpopular fuel price hike due to pressure from the PML-N and Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which recently pulled out of the ruling coalition but subsequently returned to it last week.

Mr. Gilani told a news conference yesterday that he and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and reached an agreement on implementing the opposition party’s 10 demands.

The government will work with a committee headed by senior PML-N leader Ishaq Dar to reach consensus on implementing the 10-point agenda.

A statement issued by Gilani’s media office said the premier had telephoned Sharif and “conveyed a positive response to his 10 points“.

Mr. Sharif appreciated Mr. Gilani’s “political acumen and maturity”, the statement said.

The PML-N heads the government in Punjab.

The premier said he had consulted PPP chief and President Asif Ali Zardari and leaders of the PML-Q and MQM before speaking to Mr. Sharif to forge consensus on key issues confronting the government.

The PPP will work with all political forces to strengthen institutions, tackle corruption, revamp state-run enterprises and improve law and order, Mr. Gilani said.

Observers said Mr. Gilani’s latest decision reflected the fragile government’s willingness to compromise to stay in power.

After the MQM withdrew support earlier this month, analysts had feared that Gilani would not have been able to survive a trust vote in parliament as the coalition was 12 seats short of a simple majority.

The PML-N had demanded that the government should investigate corruption allegations, cut spending by 30 per cent and implement a Supreme Court order scrapping a graft amnesty that benefited over 8,000 people, including Zardari and his aides.

The PML-N gave the government 45 days to implement its demands. However, Mr. Gilani contended that the PML-N had not delivered an “ultimatum” to his government.

The government, its allies and opposition parties will pursue a common national agenda to overcome economic and political challenges and the PPP and PML-N will try to find common ground, Mr. Gilani said.

He said Mr. Sharif told him that a deadline would not be an issue if the PML-N saw progress on the issues raised by it.

The premier also said that his government had “no intention” to amend the controversial blasphemy law.

A police guard gunned down Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer for criticising the law.

The U.S. and Western donors have criticised the Pakistan government for rolling back the fuel price hike and failing to implement tax reforms to increase revenues.