News Analysis: Benazir, MMA happy with bird in hand
By Sarfaraz Ahmed
KARACHI: Benazir Bhutto is confident that her party is united and that it stands behind her, but at the same time she fears how the government will take advantage of the continuing deadlock.
The PPP chairperson said in her interview to a TV channel on Sunday that the military government had succeeded in obtaining a hung parliament but if President Musharraf wanted a national government, he should contact Nawabazada Nasrullah Khan or Makhdoom Amin Fahim.
Analysts say Ms Bhutto has presented her own solution to the government. Although she did not specify the details of the national government, it appears she wants government to feel cornered.
She sounded confident that the ARD and the APC together had 173 votes and could form a government, whereas the PML-QA did not have more than 135 votes. That party’s Zafarullah Jamali rejects her claim.
If one goes by Zafarullah Jamali’s assumptions that the PML-QA and its allies including the National Alliance and the MQM gave him more than 182 votes (and the figure could be exaggerated), the PML-QA will always be at the mercy of its junior partners. The MQM, which has a history of taking unpredictable decisions, such as its boycott of National Assembly elections 1993, but not provincial assembly polls, will be a particularly difficult partner for the PML-QA.
Therefore despite Mr Jamali’s frequent statements that the situation calls for a national consensus government for which his party is leading the effort, the PML-QA does not want to take the risk of forming a government, with him as prime minister, even with 182 votes.
Both the government and the political parties find themselves in an awkward position. Should the government ask the Supreme Court for its opinion on the present situation, the court could ask for re-elections. But the re-elections would not be acceptable to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, with its unprecedented success. In addition, even if there are re-elections, what is the guarantee that they will not produce another hung parliament?
According to Benazir, there may be problems in Sindh and Balochistan because in these two provinces there will have to be alliances that make the government. Benazir appreciates the situation in Sindh, where her party is the single largest political group. But the PPP would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to form government even with the support of the MMA. The pro-government parties, including the MQM and PML-F of Pir Pagaro, will almost certainly follow an arrangement that is adopted at the centre.
The PPP, in particular, has now sensed an impending crisis, with a number of its MNAs supporting the idea of cooperation with the PML-QA. In any case, it could ill-afford to complicate the situation and lose its electoral gains, particularly in Punjab.
Ms Bhutto’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar’s remarks are noteworthy: “We don’t think any forward bloc is going to emerge in the party, as being propagated by its opponents. Yes, Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat wants a coalition with the PML-QA, but no other party leader is against party policies.”