Pakistan's coalition averts crisis with a U-turn

Pakistan's political crisis eased yesterday as a junior coalition partner said that it was rejoining the government, restoring its slim majority and averting any attempts to oust the Prime Minister.

But the decision has come at a cost, as the government performed another climbdown on economic reforms aimed at generating revenue it desperately needs to satisfy its creditors at the IMF.

"Our unity will benefit both the country and the national interest," said the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, after a meeting at the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)'s headquarters. "We can steer the country out of this storm."

The MQM, a secular middle-class party that dominates Karachi, said its parliamentarians would return to the government benches, but will not resume their roles in the cabinet. The move allows it to retain leverage. The MQM's disputes with the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of President Asif Ali Zardari have fitfully risen to a head over violence in Karachi and proposed economic reforms.

Mr Zardari's aides insist that there never was any threat to the government. "Another storm in a teacup over, until the next one," said one. Critics counter that, while the government will remain, bouts of crisis will see it struggle and it will be vulnerable to opponents.

The IMF criticised the decision to restore a subsidy on fuel prices, warning it would deepen Pakistan's deficit. The government's move comes days after it decided to shelve plans to introduce a general sales tax.

Meanwhile, the PPP has made further concessions to its right-wing critics. After the brutal assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab who spoke out against the prejudicial blasphemy laws, a parade of ministers have said that they will not be proposing any amendment to these laws.

Chillingly, Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister, said: "If someone dishonours Islam in front of me, I will shoot him dead." Sherry Rehman, a liberal lawmaker who proposed amendments to the law to ensure that minorities are protected, is being leaned on to withdraw her bill. Since Mr Taseer's murder, Ms Rehman has been confined to her home and urged to leave the country. Yesterday, the prayer leader at the largest mosque in south Karachi declared her a non-Muslim and "worthy of killing". Fundamentalist groups have planned a rally and a march against her. The PPP she belongs to remains silent.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - South East & East Anglia

£60500 - £65500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Technician

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want the opportunity to ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Support Worker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Home Care Support Workers needed in the Hastin...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Support Worker - Car / Bike / Moped Drivers

£7 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: NEW branch opening soon in Worthing fol...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent