Six-Party Coalition Government To Be Formed In Pakistan


(MENAFN- NewsIn) By K

Colombo, February 25: A six-party coalition government comprising the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) and four others, is to be formed in Pakistan following the February 8 elections to the National Assembly. Efforts are on to form the government by March 2.

The six-party alliance has a clear majority of 207 members in the National Assembly. In the house of 336 members, 169 is the magic number for the formation of a government.

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The other members of the alliance are: Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQMP), Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP), Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PMLQ) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP). All will get ministerial posts.

The PML (N) has emerged as the largest parliamentary party with 108 members after adding 20 reserved seats for women and four for the minorities. The PMLN had 75 elected members. After nine Independents joined it, its tally reached 84. With the allocation of 20 reserved seats for women and four for minorities, its total strength reached 108.

The PPP has 54 elected members and after the addition of 12 reserved seats for women and two for minorities, its total strength in the National Assembly reached 68.

The MQMP got elected 17 members, and with the addition of four reserved seats for women and one for minorities, its total strength became 22.

The PMLQ got elected three members and with one Independent joining it, and the addition of one reserved seat for women, its strength in the NA reached five.

The IPP got elected three members to the National Assembly.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUIF) got elected six members and was allotted two reserved seats for women. Its total strength is eight.

Other parties including Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen Pakistan, Balochistan Awami Party, Balochistan National Party (BNP), National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and PML-Zia got one seat each.

Independents

Out of 99 independents, 81 backed by Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) joined the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) , while eight other Independents opted not to join any party.

As per the deal being worked out, PML (N)'s Shehbaz Sharif, younger brother of the party's founder-leader Nawaz Sharif, will be Prime Minister and Asif Zardari of the PPP is expected to be elected President when the Presidential election is held on March 9.

Army's Anxiety

According to the political commentator Najam Sethi, the army (called the Establishment in Pakistan) was worried that a government might not be formed and has informally warned the two parties that if they did not settle matters quickly, it would have to step in. Pakistan had gone under military rule from 1958 to 1971, from 1977 to 1988 and from 1999 to 2008.

Two days after polling day, General Asim Munir, the chief of army staff, issued a statement calling for“stable hands and a healing touch to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarisation which does not suit a progressive country of 250 million people.”

The army's anxiety about government formation stems from the fact in the elections, it backed the anti-PTI parties, namely the PML (N) and the PPP. This is because there was no love lost between the army and Imran Khan's PTI.

The PTI had virtually declared war on the army. Imran Khan had accused the army of trying to overthrow him with American assistance. He pointed an accusing finger at the army when he was ousted in April 2022. He had also instigated violent demonstrations against the army after he was arrested in May 2023. He had accused army intelligence of trying to assassinate him.

Major Flaw

A major flaw in the emerging political set up is that it does not include the single largest group in the National Assembly, comprising the followers of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

These members of the National Assembly had fought the elections as Independents because the PTI was denied recognition by the Election Commission. They had also fought without the PTI's popular symbol, the cricket bat.

Regardless of the repression of its political activities, these PTI-backed Independents secured 101 seats. In contrast, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) got 74 seats and the Pakistan People's Party got 54 seats.

The followers of Imran Khan, whether in the House or outside, are not expected to be a tame opposition. The PTI is still bitterly complaining about the election having been rigged before the polling, during the polling and after the polling.

International opinion backs these charges. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, had said that“Any allegations of corruption or fraud must be fully investigated, and those responsible must be held accountable. The United States supports the right of the Pakistani people to a democratically elected government that respects the rule of law and human rights.”

“Candidates who had lost still knocking at the doors of courts and the Election Commission of Pakistan for justice against rigging. International media as well as foreign legislators, the UN Secretary General and governments are demanding investigations into the allegations of vote manipulation,” wrote Imtiaz Gul, Executive Director, Centre for Research and Security Studies, in Islamabad.

The rigged elections will continue to be a thorn in the flesh of the government and the army.

Economic Challenges

The new government will be facing multiple economic challenges, besides political ones. Imran Khan has already kicked off an economic conflict by objecting to the IMF package for Pakistan.

Pakistan plans to seek a new loan of at least US$ 6 billion from the IMF to help the government repay billions in debt due this year. The IMF is inclined to help. Julie Kozack, an information officer in the IMF, said that during the tenure of the interim government, the authorities had“maintained economic stability”.

But Imran Khan has written a letter to the IMF to say that if the IMF wants to talk to Pakistan, it should demand an independent audit of the elections.

There are a host of issues which Imran Khan could exploit. The World Bank has identified Pakistan's economic problems and given solutions for them. But making these corrections will need a strong political will, the right kind of focus and public awareness and involvement.

According to the World Bank, 7% of Pakistani children die before their 5th birthday, multiple times higher than in comparable countries. 40% of children under 5 suffer from stunted growth. 78% of 10-year-old children are unable to read age-appropriate text, while over 20 million children are out of school.

Tax collection has remained at a low 10% of GDP for decades. Real estate, agriculture, and retail are undertaxed. Tax distortions also discourage productive investment and support non-tradable sectors such as real estate.

Most loss-making public enterprises need to be privatized. Poorly targeted subsidies in agriculture and energy mark the system.

Current policies distort markets for the benefit of a few, while preventing productivity growth. Frequent overvaluation of the currency coupled with high tariffs lead firms to focus on domestic markets, dis-incentivizing exports.

Subsidies should be reallocated into public goods such as research on seeds, veterinary services, irrigation, drainage services, promoting regenerative agriculture, and building integrated agriculture value chains. Such measures could generate productivity gains, boost on- and off-farm incomes, and make Pakistan more resilient against climate shocks.

Energy sector inefficiencies need to be addressed faster and more consistently as they have long been a drain on public resources.

Will the new government and the opposition highlight and attend to these issues? Or will they indulge in the old game of vacuous politicking which will only strengthen the hands of the army?

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