Thursday, February 24, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani spent a busy day on Wednesday consulting his coalition partners and political allies to reinforce the ramparts of his government against the onslaught the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N is expected to launch two days later.


The PML-N has been beating war drums since it declared that its negotiations with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party on the implementation of its “10-point reforms agenda” had broken down and many of its leaders publicly threatened that the party would expel PPP ministers from the Punjab government.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif also had lengthy consultations with his senior party members at his Raiwind residence. He has already convened a party meeting in Islamabad on Friday to announce the future course of action.

An official statement quoted Prime Minister Gilani as telling a group of MNAs belonging to the allied parties at a meeting: “The process of consultation and dialogue should not be made hostage to timeframe because it adversely affects the sincere efforts for the betterment of the public at large.”
He said the government was open to all kinds of suggestions and would not allow “vested interests to overcome the public interest”.
The prime minister met two separate groups of MNAs belonging to the PPP and allied parties, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party, at his Parliament’s House chamber earlier in the day to discuss the brewing political confrontation and later hosted a dinner at the Prime Minister’s House for members of all allied parties in an effort to get their support in the expected trouble days ahead.
The dinner meeting was attended by members of the ANP, MQM, PML-F and those belonging to Fata. Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who has been facing criticism from leaders of his own party for his stance on the Raymond Davis case, also attended the meeting, but did not speak.
When contacted, Mr Qureshi said he had attended the meeting on the invitation of the prime minister as he was still a member of the PPP’s parliamentary group.
He said that whatever he wanted to say he had already stated in the National Assembly on Tuesday. “I will speak when it will be necessary as no-one can stop me from speaking.”
Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan took some time to come out and briefed only the official media on the meeting.
She said the prime minister had underlined the need for collective wisdom and dialogue among parties to improve political environment. The prime minister, she said, had thanked the coalition partners for their support, adding that the government in its remaining time would work on the unfinished agenda of providing economic relief to the masses. Mr Gilani was quoted as having said: “Instead of political confrontation, egotism and stubbornness, decisions should be taken in the national interest.” He was of the opinion that problems being faced by the country were such that no political party could single-handedly solve them.
According to sources, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh briefed the representatives of allied parties on the talks held with the PML-N team on the reforms agenda presented by Nawaz Sharif last month.
The allied parties are reported to have assured the prime minister that they would stand by his side against what they called the “PML-N machinations”.
PPP sources told Dawn that members of the ANP and MQM had proposed that instead of discussing only the PML-N’s 10-point agenda, a parliamentary commission should be set up to oversee the implementation of a broader national agenda which should include demands and concerns of all political parties having representation in parliament.
The ANP members regretted that the PML-N’s agenda had no mention of the issue of terrorism which, according to them, was the biggest problem the country had been facing for many years.
The MQM delegation, led by Dr Farooq Sattar, insisted that an agenda presented by the party two weeks ago for improving governance and economic situation should also be made part of the broad reforms agenda.
According to an official handout, the prime minister agreed with the ANP delegation, led by Senator Haji Adeel, on wider parliamentary ownership for economic reforms. The government, Mr Gilani said, was taking hard decisions for future generations and not for next elections or political point scoring.
A PML-N source told Dawn that the PPP was using backdoor channels to have a rapprochement with the opposition party and a non-political personality having good personal relations with both Mr Gilani and Mr Sharif as well as the UAE rulers was playing the role of a mediator.
He claimed that the prime minister had held a 90-minute meeting with Mr Sharif in Lahore on Tuesday. But there was no official confirmation of the meeting from either side.source

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