PPP explores ways to form govt in Punjab province

Pakistan's ruling PPP, which has been eyeing the opposition PML-N's stronghold of Punjab for long, is exploring ways to form its government in the province following the ouster of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
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Updated on Feb 28, 2009 05:15 PM IST
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PTI | By, Islamabad

Pakistan's ruling PPP, which has been eyeing the opposition PML-N's stronghold of Punjab for long, is exploring ways to form its government in the province following the ouster of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

A meeting of the PPP's federal and provincial lawmakers from Punjab yesterday authorised party Chairman, President Asif Ali Zardari, to nominate a candidate for the post of Chief Minister, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

Shahbaz was removed as Chief Minister of the politically- crucial province in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling earlier this week which barred him and his elder brother, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, from contesting polls and holding elected offices.

The PPP is weighing the option of forming a government in Punjab, Pakistan's richest and most populous province, with the support of the opposition PML-Q. However, dissident PML-Q leaders, including late military dictator Zia-ul-Haq's son Ejaz-ul-Haq, have thrown their weight behind the Sharifs.

Zardari assured the lawmakers yesterday that next Chief Minister would be from the PPP. He said he was compelled to impose Governor's Rule in Punjab as Nawaz and Shahbaz had adopted a path of confrontation after the apex court verdict.

Though the PPP formed a coalition with the PML-N in Punjab after last year's polls, relations between the two parties had been strained as they jockeyed for more power.

The PPP currently heads the government in Sindh province and is also part of the ruling coalitions in Balochistan and North West Frontier Province.

Forming its own government in Punjab would help the PPP consolidate its grip on all four provinces but analysts say such a move could trigger a confrontation with the PML-N at a time when Pakistan can ill afford a major political crisis.

Zardari claimed the people of Punjab were not with Nawaz Sharif and it was just "media hype" that created the impression that he was popular. Zardari said efforts could have been made to reach a solution if the Sharif brothers had consulted him after the Supreme Court's verdict.

The PPP also reposed confidence in the leadership of Zardari, who has been buffeted by media reports about indecent behaviour with federal ministers and close aides. The presidential spokesman dismissed these reports as baseless.

The ruling party condemned the protests by PML-N leaders and activists in the wake of the apex court order, including attacks directed against Zardari. "Those throwing stones at the PPP leadership should remember that they themselves are sitting in the glass houses," said a resolution adopted at Friday's meeting of PPP lawmakers.

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