Pakistan political parties still grappling to form government

March 2nd, 2008 - 2:43 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, March 2 (IANS) Two weeks after the nationwide elections, efforts are on to form a government in Pakistan with no clear announcements by either of the winning parties as to who would head the national and provincial governments. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which has emerged as the largest party in the National Assembly, had earlier hinted that Makhdoom Amin Fahim would be the prime ministerial candidate. But the party leadership later gave signals that there are other candidates as well.

Former speaker of the National Assembly Yousaf Raza Gillani, PPP Punjab chief Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and a leading industrialist Ahmed Mukhtar are also hopefuls for the country’s top post.

However, despite PPP Chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s repeated statements that he is not interested in the post, speculations are rife that party leaders and workers would ultimately push him for the slot.

“I am not a candidate for prime minister’s office…” Zardari had been saying, but he also said he might not refuse if he was pushed by party workers.

“I know we need to separate both official and party position. I want to organise the party at the grassroots level,” said Zardari, widower of PPP chief Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated Dec 27 in an election rally.

Zardari was not a candidate for the Feb 18 parliamentary polls, but would be contesting the by-elections to be held by mid April.

As per the constitution, the prime minister has to be a member of the lower house of parliament or the National Assembly.

“In the interim period, the party may choose any leader to be prime minister before Zardari could be elected to the parliament,” a PPP leader told IANS.

He said Zardari was the best choice, and that the party may face difficulties if someone else was chosen for this position.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as the second largest party in the polls, has announced unconditional support to the PPP in forming the government at the centre.

In return they are looking for a similar support for their party in the formation of the provincial government in Punjab where they have emerged as the single largest party but are short of majority.

The PML-N has announced Shahbaz Sharif as a candidate for chief ministership though he is not a member of the provincial assembly and will have to contest the April by-polls.

The PML-N would also be appointing someone from within the party to head the provincial government for the interim period.

In Sindh, the PPP has clear majority to form the government but they have yet to decide on the name of the candidate for chief minister’s office.

In Balochistan, the former ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) is the largest single party and they are in a position of forming the government with the help of small regional parties and some independent parliamentarians-elect. The PML-Q has yet not announced their candidate for chief ministership.

In North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan, the Awami National Party (ANP) is the single largest party and has announced Haider Hoti as its candidate for the top executive position there.

But the ANP faces a challenge from the PPP, which has also wooed quite a few independently elected parliamentarians and some smaller parties.

The PPP, however, has yet not announced its candidate for the chief ministership in the province.

As the political parties are prolonging their decision making process, those who voted against the parties allied to President Pervez Musharraf are getting uneasy.

“We have voted against Musharraf for change… but now it seems that these parties are also just power hungry and there’s not much difference (between Musharraf and the newly elected MPs),” Shayaan Ali, a student of Quaid-e-Azam University, told IANS.

Abid Shah, 80, who voted for the first time in his life, said the sooner the political parties reach a decision, the better it would be.

“They should not linger on and should resolve their internal issues and should be clear on forming the governments,” he said.

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