PML-Q decides to join Pak federal govt

Lahore: Weeks after being invited by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, the opposition PML-Q has decided in principle to join the PPP-led ruling coalition but wants MQM and JUI to be on board for setting up a "national reconciliation government," sources said on Tuesday.

The PML-Q, which was formed with the backing of former President Pervez Musharraf, has asked the PPP`s leadership to take the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) on board for forming the "national reconciliation government" for the security and prosperity of the country, the sources said.

PML-Q chief and former premier Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain conveyed to President Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the PPP, his party`s conditions for joining the government.

Zardari had last month invited Chaudhry to join the federal government.

A senior PML-Q leader, who did not want to be named, said: "If the MQM and JUI agree to come back to the PPP-led government, our party has three demands at least five to seven ministries, a new post of Deputy Prime Minister or Punjab`s governorship to be part of the new dispensation."

The PML-Q leader said an extensive exercise was carried out within the party to solicit opinion on joining the government.

He said those in favour of the move said it would help unite the PML-Q, which has been affected by the activities of dissident leaders and lawmakers since last year. Most of the dissidents are opposed to Hussain`s leadership.

The party leaders believed that getting important ministries in a new federal set-up would help strengthen the PML-Q and improve its bargaining position for the next general election in 2013, especially in the rural areas of Punjab where it already enjoys good support.

"In case elections are held to local bodies, the PML-Q`s position will be better if we have some federal ministers or a Governor (in Punjab). It will also help prevent influential individuals from rural areas joining other political forces," said a report prepared after internal consultations in the PML-Q.

Those backing the idea of joining the PPP-led government believe that seat adjustments with the PPP or other parties will be easier to negotiate following such a move.

"After joining the government, the PML-Q can consolidate its position and pose a big challenge to the PML-N. Our dissident legislators will also start thinking about returning to the party fold once they notice us getting on a strong footing," the report said.

"If we do not join the PPP government, the PML-N will give us a final blow in the next elections," the report quotes a majority of PML-Q leaders as having said.

Those opposed to joining the government say the main beneficiary of the deal will be the PPP, as it will have no threat from any of its coalition partners or the opposition during the remaining two years of its five-year term.

"The Q may lose its identity once it becomes part of the PPP set-up. The (parliamentarians) failing to get ministries may defect to other parties," the report said.

However, legal experts said it would not be possible to create the office of Deputy Prime Minister without a constitutional amendment which requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

A PPP leader said it would not be easy to pass such an amendment given the current composition of the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament.

The PPP, PML-Q, MQM and JUI have 130, 55, 25 and six seats respectively in the 342-member National Assembly.

The opposition PML-N of former premier Nawaz Sharif has 95 seats.

Political analysts said the PPP is contemplating a new set-up as it wants to smoothly pass the upcoming budget, likely to be presented in June.

The new arrangement could facilitate seat adjustments among the PPP, PML-Q and MQM in next year`s elections to the Senate or upper house of Parliament, they said.