Coalition and allies

May 12, 2024

PPP mulls federal cabinet role after its governors are sworn in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab

Coalition and allies


fter the appointment of Pakistan Peoples Party leaders as governors in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there have been unconfirmed reports suggesting that the PPP might also join the federal cabinet.

Learning from the past mistakes, the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have been following the Charter of Democracy since 2008 and supporting each other. The cooperation between them was disrupted in 2009 over the issue of the reinstatement of former chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The two parties reconciled soon after the 2013 elections after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf threat became credible.

After the 2024 elections, the PPP and the PML-N devised a power-sharing formula under which the PPP got offices of the president, the Senate chairman and Balochistan chief minister. In the most recent episode, the PPP has gotten governorships in the Punjab and the KP that will give it a foothold and another chance to regain support in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa if the offices are used sensibly to motivate the PPP supporters in the two provinces.

Soon after the elections, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had announced that the PPP would support the PML-N bid to form the government. However, he had also said that it would not join the federal cabinet as he wanted the PML-N to formulate and implement its policies without any pressure from within the coalition.

Coalition and allies

Recently some media outlets have published or aired news citing ‘credible sources’ that the PPP may join the federal cabinet and that it will get some important ministries.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Faisal Karim Kundi, however, has dismissed the reports about the PPP being a part of the federal cabinet. “The party’s Central Executive Committee will take a position about it if a move is made by the PML-N,” he said recently.

A few weeks ago, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Punjab Assembly Ali Haider Gilani had indicated that the PPP might soon get portfolios in the federal and Punjab cabinets. However, there has been no concrete progress in that direction.

It can be argued that the PPP has already got a good chunk of the cake. If the PML-N yields further ground, it may be risking its own interests. The PML-N has already lost more public support for taking the driving seat in the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s 16-moth government.

President Asif Ali Zardari has played his cards wisely and secured important positions in the provinces and the Senate of Pakistan. It is as if some hidden power is shaping the course of the ruling alliance.

Coalition and allies

Naqvi, Aurangzeb and Aleem Khan already hold important portfolios. So, the PML-N has nothing important to offer to the PPP. To do so it will have to demotivate its own ministers and MNAs. The PPP will likely seek ministries in the Punjab too. This will be harder to digest for the PML-N Punjab leaders.

The PML-N had wanted Nawaz Sharif to be elected prime minister for a fourth term. However, seeing the weakness of his party in the National Assembly, the elder Sharif instead nominated his brother for the premiership and daughter Maryam Nawaz for the office of the Punjab chief minister. On the other hand, Bilawal Bhutto asked for his father Asif Zardari to be elected president for another term.

The PML-N has since formed the federal cabinet but seven of the ministers are not from the party. They are: Mohsin Naqvi, who became a senator with PML-N support; Jam Kamal who joined the PML-N after leaving the Balochistan Awami Party; Abdul Aleem Khan of Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party; Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Chaudhry Salik Hussain of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, businessman Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh and Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb. Naqvi, Aurangzeb and Aleem Khan hold important portfolios of interior, finance and privatisation, respectively. So, the PML-N has nothing important left to offer the PPP. If it does so, it could demotivate its own ministers and MNAs. The PPP might seek ministries in the Punjab too. This will be harder to digest for the PML-N Punjab leaders.

There is already anxiety amongst the PML-N supporters over the inclusion of ‘strangers’ in the federal cabinet. Sensing the gravity of the situation, Nawaz Sharif has decided to resume the office of the PML-N president with Khawaja Saad Rafiq as secretary-general to keep the party united.

If PPP-PML-N joint cabinets are formed, most people will see them as revival of the 2008 arrangement when the PPP and the PML-N formed coalition governments at the Centre and in the Punjab. Yousaf Raza Gillani became prime minister with Ishaq Dar and several other PML-N stalwarts in his cabinet. Dost Muhammad Khosa was elected the Punjab CM and formed a cabinet with a promise to give six ministries to the PPP [only four were given in the end]. There were reports that the bureaucrats were directed to report to Shahbaz Sharif who was facing eligibility issues.

Later, as the power crisis worsened, the PML-N tried to protect its image by exiting the federal cabinet. It also started symbolic protests against the federal government’s inability to overcome the electricity load-shedding. This led to a rift between the two parties as a result of which the PPP imposed the governor’s rule in the Punjab. The Supreme Court of Pakistan, however, restored the provincial assembly and the government. Nawaz Sharif famously led a march towards Islamabad for the restoration of the judiciary.

Some political commentators say that a coalition including the PML-N and the PPP is already ruling the country with the help of a couple of smaller groups. The PPP, inevitably, will share the credit or blame for its actions. They argue that it would be wise on the part of the PPP to accept federal and provincial ministries. The question is: will it be wise for the PML-N to offer something from its plate to the PPP?

An easier way out might be the offer of a couple of advisories in the Punjab and some in Islamabad.

The author is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and analyst. His X handle: @BukhariMubasher

Coalition and allies