Islamabad: Pakistan's fragile PPP-led federal government got a lifeline today when its biggest ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) announced its return to the coalition after its demands like the rollback of petrol prices were met. But the MQM leaders, who held crunch talks with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, said the party would not join the federal cabinet.
"In the larger interest of the nation and keeping in mind the critical economic and security challenges our country is facing, the central committee of the MQM has decided to again sit on the government benches," senior MQM leader Reza Haroon told reporters at the party's headquarters 'Nine Zero'.
The announcement came after Gilani, accompanied by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, visited the MQM headquarters for the first time. He was showered with rose petals and was accorded a warm welcome upon his arrival. The premier held a long meeting with the MQM central committee members and also spoke to party's London-based chief Altaf Hussain on telephone before he came out flanked by Sindh Governor, Sindh Chief Minister, Malik and senior MQM members.
The return of the 25 MQM members to the government benches restores the Pakistan People's Party-led government's majority in the parliament at 183 seats out of 342.
After the MQM announced it would be sitting on the opposition benches, the PPP-led government and the Prime Minister were in acute danger of facing a vote of no-confidence in the parliament.
"We have always valued the MQM's support as we want to work with all progressive forces for the betterment and progress of this country," Gilani said.
"The MQM was understandably upset with us over issues of principles among them the rise in petroleum prices and I have assured Altaf Bhai we will look into all their grievances and take them on board on all important decisions," Gilani said.
Giving in to pressure from the opposition PML-N and estranged ally MQM, Gilani last night rolled back an unpopular hike in fuel prices that had already resulted in one party leaving the ruling coalition.