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Pakistan: Sharif steps up bid to widen support base outside Punjab

15th May 2013

By Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE, (Dawn): The PML-N has reached out to political players in Sindh and Balochistan in its efforts to widen its support base outside Punjab and explore the possibility of forming provincial governments or play the role of an effective opposition there.

In Karachi, its team comprising former Sindh chief minister Liaquat Jatoi, Rana Mashhood and Senator Jafar Iqbal called on PML-F president Pir Pagara and invited him to join the PML-N-led federal government.

The PML-F accepted the offer to join the federal government and become part of the opposition in Sindh while the PML-N endorsed the latter’s call for a protest on Thursday against rigging in the province.

The meeting decided that PML-F leader Imtiaz Shaikh would meet Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday. It will be followed by another meeting between Pir Pagara and Nawaz Sharif in Lahore.

The leaders of the two parties expressed reservations over what they called large-scale rigging in the elections in Sindh in which the governor and the caretaker chief minister were also allegedly involved. They also criticised the speech of MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

The N-League has secured 123 seats to become the largest party in the National Assembly. Although seven independent MNAs, mostly from Punjab, have joined the PML-N raising its tally of seats to 131, it needs at least three more members to attain a simple majority to form its government.

The PML-F has secured four National Assembly seats.

Another team comprising MNAs-elect retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who has defeated Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan in a Lahore constituency, is in Quetta for talks with nationalists, particularly Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

Mr Achakzai, who had sided with Nawaz Sharif in thwarting the former ruling party’s bid to postpone elections, is being offered a greater role in the National Assembly, though his party has won only two seats in the lower house of parliament.

According to a PML-N official, the nationalist leader may replace Dr Fehmida Mirza as National Assembly speaker if their talks on formation of the federal and Balochistan governments end positively.

Talks are also under way to take the Jamaat-i-Islami along. The JI has secured three berths in the National Assembly and shown its inclination towards the PTI for forming a coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In Balochistan, the PML-N with a tally of nine seats is seeking to form a coalition government with the PkMAP (10), JUI-F (6) and National Party (6). Eight independents are also being approached, Ayaz Sadiq says.

Since the N-League and its alliance partners in Sindh, nationalists and the PML-F, have failed to secure any significant strength, it has decided to sit in

the opposition, instead of joining the PPP-led government.

Habib Khan Ghori also contributed to this report.



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