MAQBOOL MALIK

ISLAMABAD - Dissidents MPs of PML-Q, an important component of the PPP-led ruling alliance, have a key role to play in March 2 Senate elections and passing of the Constitutional (20th Amendment) Bill, 2012 which would be decisive for major political players, PPP and PML-N, to pick up future allies from within the Parliament.

Background discussions and interviews with sitting MPs revealed that both PPP and PML-Q are trying to woo away separate dissident groups both in the National and Punjab Assemblies from the PML-N that has been using them for smooth ride.

Some of the sources requesting anonymity were of the considered view that top leadership of the PPP and PML-Q had decided the timing of bringing the proposed Constitutional (20th Amendment) Bill, 2012 for National Assembly’s nod now requisitioned to meet on February 1st, well after deep thinking.  Other coalition partners including ANP, MQM and FATA Group were taken on board afterwards, sources said, adding, the move aimed at causing a grievous dent to the major rival PML-N on one hand and dividing smaller Parliamentary players including JUI-F, PPP (Sherpao) and PML-F.

The pre-emptive PPP-PML-Q move has compelled the PML-N President Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to convene an emergency consultative party meeting at Raiwind after his arrival from foreign visit to discuss counter strategy ahead of the National Assembly meeting. ‘The PML-N will have to choose between President Asif Ali Zardari’s offer for Parliamentary support on the proposed 20th Constitutional Amendment or face major challenges including retaining its Punjab government’, a PML-N insider told The Nation on Sunday.

The sources believed that the PML-N leadership would most likely opt for the offer made by President Zardari, also Co-Chairman of the ruling PPP, as the ultimate way out largely based on ‘survival strategy’.

In this way it will not only retain its provincial government but also claim a fair share in the interim government to be structured and approved by President Zardari to hold next general elections.

According to the PPP, ruling alliance was already working to make 2/3 majority to get the proposed draft bill without any serious challenge in the existing 238 House to give legal cover to 26 MNAs largely from the ruling PPP who had made into the National Assembly as a result of the by-elections.

The ruling alliance is working day a night to rope-in stark majority of party’s Parliamentary strength in the National Assembly, other than few Like-Minded led by Senator Salim Saifullah Khan.

There are more than 30 MNAs from PML-Q out of total 54 who are being persuaded by the PPP-led alliance to support smooth passage of the bill to be passed by 2/3rd majority vote making a total of 195 in 342 House.

‘The PML-N and Like-Minded PML-Q group will suffer humiliating defeat if they decided to oppose the amendment. All the parties including PPP, PML-Q, MQM, ANP, FATA Group, JUI-F, PML-F and PPP (Sherpao) will pass the Bill’, the sources insisted.

Sources further said that all those who would support the Bill would be given advantage in the Senate elections but also benefit in terms of development funds and share in the interim government.

On other hand, the PML-N to retain its government in the Punjab will have to sacrifice two important Senate slots by obliging the Unification Bloc as well as Like-Minded Group separately.

The PML-N leadership is in talks with members with these two PML-Q dissident groups over their demand for one Senate seat for each.    

‘This will be a real testing time for the PML-N to successfully surmount challenges relating to retain its provincial government, its future allies in the election and securing reasonable position in the interim government’, sources said.

Sources in the PPP-led ruling alliance were also of the view in such situation the PML-N provincial government would remain under serious threat of being toppled by the PPP and PML-Q by wooing away some of members of the Unification Bloc.