Possible outcomes in Pakistan’s political turmoil

The second largest party in Pakistan’s coalition said on Sunday it would go into opposition, depriving the government, a strategic US ally, of its majority in the National Assembly.

By Reuters

Published: Mon 3 Jan 2011, 4:33 PM

Last updated: Wed 12 Feb 2020, 6:00 PM

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said the decision had been taken because of the government’s policy on fuel prices. It means Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s administration may now collapse.
Here are some questions and answers on where the turmoil may lead the South Asian country:


With the MQM sitting the opposition, the government clearly loses its majority in the National Assembly.
The opposition could now press ahead with a no-confidence vote against the prime minister in parliament.
However, much will depend on the biggest opposition party in the assembly, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).
Sharif is one of Pakistan’s most popular politicians. But he does not enjoy good ties with most political parties and the chances of the opposition forming a new ruling alliance are slim.
Tensions between the MQM and Sharif’s party have been rising. The ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) may try to lure some of the other, smaller opposition parties into its fold to regain a majority, but that looks unlikely.
Therefore, a call for early elections is likely.
In either case, Pakistan’s latest political storm could further weigh on investment in a country that relies on an $11 billion IMF loan agreed in 2008 to help its fragile economy and faces a stubborn Taliban insurgency. FDI fell by over 20 percent in the first five months of 2010 due to factors like militant violence.


The MQM has long been an uneasy partner for the government, and now that it has finally acted on threats to quit, political reconciliation seems highly unlikely.
To get the MQM back on board, President Asif Ali Zardari would have to take a number of bold steps such as reversing the latest fuel price hike. That would be risky at a time when the IMF is demanding fiscal discipline.
Zardari could also make political moves, such as dismissing his close aide and Sindh province’s home minister, Zulfiqar Mirza, a vocal critic of the MQM, which dominates politics in Pakistan’s financial capital and biggest city Karachi, which is also the capital of Sindh.


Zardari’s aides are trying to win back the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a small coalition partner, which left the government last month over the sacking of one of its ministers and sat with the opposition.
While pro-Taliban religious parties like the JUI don’t win significant votes in elections, they have the capability to stir emotions and street protests. The government can’t afford to ignore them. The head of the JUI, Fazal-ur-Rehman, has called for the resignation of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.
While there are no signs yet that may happen, rising differences between Zardari and Gilani have raised speculation that the prime minister is becoming vulnerable.
Some analysts say Gilani may opt to resign instead of facing a confidence vote, which may encourage some of the disgruntled former allies to rejoin the government.


A long shot but it can’t be ruled out. The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history. If the generals decide the government is losing control, they may take drastic action.
That would hurt Pakistan’s democratic credentials and discourage Western donors from providing financial aid badly needed after devastating summer floods.

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