Key Party Pulls Out of Pakistan's Ruling Coalition

Muttahida Qaumi Movement to shift its 25 seats to the opposition
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 2, 2011 3:04 PM CST
In this photo taken Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani pauses during a meeting with the Pakistani National Disaster Management Authority.   (Muhammed Muheisen)

(Newser) – The second largest party in Pakistan's ruling coalition is quitting the government and joining the opposition, it said today, depriving the country's pro-US government of a parliamentary majority and throwing its future into doubt. It was not immediately clear whether the Muttahida Qaumi Movement's decision to shift its 25 seats to the opposition will prompt the downfall of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's government. But it is almost certain to distract Pakistani officials at a time when the US is pushing Islamabad to do more to help turn around the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

It also raises the possibility of a new government that could be less friendly to US interests and less vocal in opposing the Taliban. The MQM opted to withdraw from the ruling coalition because of the government's poor performance in combating problems like rising inflation and the corruption weighing down average Pakistanis, said one MQM lawmaker: "We are doing it for the sake of common men." But some analysts have speculated that the MQM's behavior has been driven by self-interest rather than public good, leaving open the possibility that the government could still find a way to lure the party back by offering the right concessions.

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