Sharif sets demands, 3-day deadline for PPP govt

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Islamabad: Pakistan`s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday gave the beleaguered government a 72-hour ultimatum to act on several demands, including rollback of a fuel price hike and probe into corruption scandals, failing which the PPP could be booted out from the Punjab government.

Sharif, chief of the country`s main opposition party the PML-N, did not link the demands to support for the Pakistan People`s Party-led government at the centre, which was reduced to a minority after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement withdrew support to it last week.

However, sources said his stance was linked to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani`s efforts to seek support from the PML-N on Monday.

"The PML-N has decided that the Prime Minister should be given three days. He should inform us in 72 hours if he will implement this agenda. We will wait for his reply in a yes or no," Sharif told a news conference.

If the government agreed to the PML-N`s demands, it should take "formal action" to implement them within 45 days, Sharif said.

"The nation should see progress by February 20… If the Prime Minister says he cannot (accept the demands) we will part ways with the PPP in the Punjab government," he added.

The three-day deadline came as the PPP-led government is facing its worst crisis at the centre, being reduced to a minority following the pulling out of the MQM and JUI from the ruling coalition.

Among the demands listed by PML-N were an immediate rollback of an unpopular fuel price hike announced on January 1, a proper regime for settling fuel, gas and power tariffs so people are not burdened, an end to gas and power outages, and stopping corruption and sacking government employees and ministers allegedly involved in graft.

The PML-N also demanded that the government should implement all decisions of the superior judiciary, including an order for action against those who benefited from a controversial graft amnesty.

President Asif Ali Zardari was among the over 8,000 people who benefited from the National Reconciliation Ordinance and the government has so far refused to act against him.

Sharif also called for the reorganisation of the Election Commission to ensure free and fair polls, a 30 per cent cut in government spending, and a probe into major scandals, including irregularities in the Haj pilgrimage, graft in state-run firms like the Pakistan Steel Mills and payment of kickbacks in the purchase of Agosta submarines from France.

The PML-N joined hands with the PPP to form a coalition government after the 2008 general election but Sharif pulled his party out of the alliance within six months.

After the PPP-led government lost its majority, the PML-N has stopped short of calling for a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Gilani.

The PPP is part of the PML-N-led government in Punjab, Pakistan`s most populous and politically crucial province.

During a meeting with Gilani yesterday, Nawaz Sharif`s younger brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, had said the PML-N will not take any step that derails democracy.

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