PML-N and PPP to hold fifth round of talks on coalition government

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) are set to resume their negotiations on the formation of a future government today, after the February 8 elections resulted in a hung parliament.

The PML-N, which emerged as the second largest party with 79 seats in the National Assembly, has been seeking the PPP’s support to form a coalition government and nominate its leader Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister. The PPP, which secured 54 seats and won a majority in Sindh province, has agreed to back Shehbaz for the top post, but has refused to join the PML-N’s government.

The PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto has repeatedly stated that his party does not want any ministry or the prime minister’s chair, and has instead proposed that PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari should be the candidate for the president’s office. Bilawal has also expressed his reservations about forming a government with the PML-N, saying that he does not want to be part of a “Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) II”, referring to the opposition alliance that collapsed after the Senate elections.

The PML-N, however, has been hopeful of convincing the PPP to join the government, as the country faces multiple challenges and crises. The PML-N leader Irfan Siddiqui has argued that the PPP should share the responsibility and the burden of running the government with the PML-N, and that making one party’s prime minister would not help the country overcome the difficulties.

The PML-N and the PPP have also been in contact with other smaller parties and independent candidates to secure the required 169 seats in the 336-member lower house of parliament. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which won the most seats (92) in the elections, has been unable to form a government due to the lack of allies and the allegations of rigging and manipulation.

The PML-N and the PPP have held four rounds of talks so far, but have not reached a final agreement on the terms and conditions of the future coalition. The PML-N’s coordination committee, headed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar, has asked the leaders of both parties to refrain from making any statements or comments on the ongoing process of discussion, until a formal joint declaration is issued.

Dar has also expressed his optimism that a major breakthrough will be achieved in today’s meeting, and that the PML-N and the PPP will be able to announce the formation of a government soon.

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