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Gilani scrambles for new alliances to save govt

world Updated: Jan 03, 2011 22:08 IST

In a desperate move to shore up support, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday met top leaders of the opposition PML-N and PLM-Q, but got no firm assurance from them on saving his tottering government.

Beleaguered Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani emerging from the crisis talks, however, claimed that the two main opposition parties had said that they would not back any move "that derails democracy".

Gilani took the step to reach out to the PML-N and the PML-Q, as clamour mounted for his resignation following the withdrawal of support from the 25-member strong Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a development that reduced his government to a minority left with only 160 members in a 342 strong National Assembly.

First he met PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif and then drove to the Lahore residence of former premier Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the chief of PML-Q, once described by President Asif Ali Zardari as the "qatil (killer) league" for its government's alleged failure to provide protection to his wife Benazir Bhutto at the time of her assassination in 2007.

The desperate moves by Gilani came as leaders of his erstwhile ally Jamiet Ulema-e-Islam called for his stepping down, saying he had lost support in parliament, triggering horse trading in search of new alliances.

Following separate meetings with Gilani, a day after the MQM pulled out of the ruling coalition, leaders of the PML-N and PML-Q said that they would not take any step that derails democracy or amounted to "blackmailing" the government.

Emerging from a meeting with PML-Q chief Hussain, Gilani told reporters, "He has said that no step will be taken (by the PML-Q) that derails democracy".

The top leadership of the PML-Q will hold further consultations tomorrow on the question of supporting the PPP-led government, Gilani said.

Former premier Hussain said that the PML-Q had given unconditional support to Gilani so far but had now set the condition that the government should address the people's problems to get its backing in future.

At an earlier meeting with Gilani, senior PML-N leader and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said that "democracy had become a reality after a long struggle against dictatorial regimes" and his party "would not let it be derailed".

The PML-N's top leadership will discuss the issue of backing the government at a meeting to be chaired tomorrow by party chief Nawaz Sharif.

The PPP-led government is currently facing its worst crisis since it came to power after the 2008 general election.

The MQM, which draws its power from the Urdu-speaking people of Karachi, played a key role in propping up the government with its 25 parliamentarians.