PML-N to part ways with PPP in Punjab province

Lahore: The ruling PML-N is set to part ways with the PPP in Pakistan`s Punjab province as the latter appears reluctant to implement a "reforms agenda" that includes acting against federal ministers accused of corruption and action on Supreme Court orders.

Reacting to remarks by Pakistan Muslim League-N leaders that the Pakistan People`s Party would be asked to leave the ruling coalition in Punjab, senior PPP leader Raja Riaz said, "We are ready to sit on the opposition benches in the Punjab Assembly if the PML-N parts ways with us."

Riaz, a Senior Minister in the PML-N-led government in Punjab, told PTI: "However, we will not fire the first shot."

Though the PPP saved its tottering government at the centre by wooing the Muttahida Qaumi Movement back into the federal coalition yesterday, it is facing an uphill task in retaining its slot as a junior partner in the PML-N-led alliance in Punjab.

The PPP has also made it clear that it is not making any effort to forge an alliance with the opposition PML-Q in Punjab in light of the threats from the PML-N.

PPP leaders believe that the PML-N has started building pressure on their party as it wants to have a say in the appointment of a new Governor for Punjab following the assassination of Salmaan Taseer.

Taseer was gunned down by one of his police guards who said he was angered by the late Governor`s criticism of the blasphemy law.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has made it clear that his party will push the PPP out of Punjab coalition if it fails to implement the reforms agenda within a three-day deadline.

In an ultimatum issued on Friday the PML-N has demanded the removal of ministers allegedly involved in corruption, setting up of an independent anti-graft commission and implementation of the Supreme Court`s order for action against those who benefited from a 2007 graft amnesty.

The federal government has been reluctant to act on the apex court`s order as PPP chief and President Asif Ali Zardari is among the beneficiaries of the amnesty.

PPP leaders are of the view that it will not easy for the PML-N to form an alliance with PML-Q dissidents in Punjab.

"How will the PML-N manage to keep the turncoats in their fold without giving them ministries? In spite of pressure from PML-N leaders and support of 50 or so dissidents of the PML-Q, Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif is not ready to give away some ministries to them," a PPP senior leader said.

In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, the PML-N has 172 seats, the PPP 108 and the PML-Q 84.

Senior PML-N leader and provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah insisted that his party will not review its decision to part ways with the PPP if the federal government does not implement the reforms agenda.