Pakistan in for ‘roller coaster’ ride after parties strike deal

Coalition agreement ends days of uncertainty after election Khan supporters claim was rigged

A deal between two Pakistani parties to form a coalition government, ending 10 days of intense negotiations after an inconclusive national election, will lead to a “roller coaster” ride, it has been predicted.

The agreement between Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif ends days of uncertainty and negotiations after the February 8th elections produced a hung national assembly.

The new government will face a strong opposition bloc led by supporters of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan.

Candidates backed by Mr Khan won 93 seats, but do not have the numbers to form a government. He and his party have rejected the results of the elections, alleging widespread rigging.


Mr Zardari confirmed at a late night press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday that former premier Shehbaz Sharif would be the coalition’s candidate for prime minister. He added that his father Asif Ali Zardari will be the alliance’s candidate for president.

Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz, said the two parties had the numbers to form government, and also had the support of other smaller parties.

PML-N won 79 seats while PPP has 54. They, along with four other smaller parties, have a comfortable majority in the legislature of 264 seats.

“It will be, of course, a roller coaster,” said political commentator and author Ayesha Siddiqa of the road ahead for the next government.

The delay in forming a government in the nuclear-armed nation of 241 million has caused concern as Pakistan is grappling with an economic crisis amid slow growth and record inflation, rising militant violence, and needs a stable administration with the authority to take tough decisions.

According to the country’s constitution, a session of parliament has to be called by February 29th after which a vote for a new prime minister will take place.

The PPP is not taking cabinet positions, its secretary of information Faisal Karim Kundi said. In return for supporting the formation of government by PML-N, PPP will seek the offices of president, chairman of the upper house of the parliament, and governors in two of the four provinces, he said.

“We will support policy decisions on an issue-to-issue basis,” Mr Kundi said.

The most challenging task is to agree on critical fiscal tightening conditions under a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme. The current IMF programme expires in March.

Other big moves include privatisation of loss-making state owned enterprises such as the flagship carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). Mr Kundi said the PPP would not support the privatisation of the airline, while the PML-N would want to fast-track it. - Reuters