PML-Q, PPP finalise deal to join hands: Political source

PML-Q chief and former premier Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his cousin, former Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi, met Zardari over dinner at the presidency yesterday and reportedly finalised a plan for their party to join the ruling coalition.

The meeting lasted over two hours, sources said.

Over the past few weeks, Pakistan's political circles have been abuzz with reports of the beleaguered PPP forging an alliance with the PML-Q, which has been in the cold due to its strong links with former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

The PML-Q was formed by Musharraf to give legitimacy to his rule after he came to power in a military coup in 1999.

Zardari's spokesman Farhatullah Babar declined to confirm the reports that the PPP and PMl-Q had finalised plans for forming a "national reconciliation government".

Following the desertion of two key allies – the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – from the ruling alliance, the PPP has been trying to garner support from the PML-Q so that it has the numbers in Parliament to ensure the passage of the upcoming federal budget.

The PPP is also eyeing an alliance with the PML-Q to strengthen its position for elections to the Senate or upper house of Parliament scheduled for March next year.

An unnamed PML-Q leader told the Dawn newspaper that a roadmap had been framed under which the PML-Q and MQM would initially join the government while the JUI would become part of the alliance at a later stage.

The PPP also agreed on a draft plan presented by the PML-Q for reviving the crippled economy, improving law and order, tiding over an energy crisis and curbing inflation and bringing rising prices under control, media reports said.

An agreement on the plan is likely to be signed in a meeting to be held at the presidency next week.

Following this, PML-Q lawmakers will formally be inducted into the government.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani did not attend yesterday's meeting and he is reportedly not pleased with the understanding with the PML-Q, media reports said.

Gilani was not invited to three previous meetings between Zardari and PML-Q leaders.

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