Islamabad, May 22 (IANS): The PML-N-led coalition government in Pakistan appears unwilling to take the blame for any unpopular decisions it might have to take to fix the economy, and wants guaranteed backing of the powerful military establishment to help it see through the remaining period of its tenure till August next year, a media report said.
The coalition, despite pressure from within its ranks to clear the air about the possibility of early polls or taking unpopular decisions, is looking to the powers-that-be to make their position clear in this respect, according to the Dawn news report.
With each passing day, the government's indecisiveness is taking a toll on the already tanking economy, as well as governance, the report said.
The current leaders appear reluctant to take up a 'perceived offer' from the establishment to enter into a bailout deal with the IMF, present the federal budget next month and immediately announce the date for polls (probably Oct-Nov).
This is a sticking point at the moment, says a source with knowledge of the government's backdoor parleys with the establishment. The coalition parties are of the view that taking difficult decisions on the economic front for a short term will cost them dearly if elections are held early, the Dawn report said.
The recent court decisions on defection of lawmakers and perceived interference in the prosecution of high-profile cases, which have been welcomed by the PTI, have been interpreted by some political observers as a 'message' to the incumbent rulers that they cannot stretch their rule for 15 months.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has come out in the open about the problems plaguing the ruling coalition.
"So far, all allied parties have agreed on completion of the 15-month term. The problem is that if the IMF agrees, the economy can be revived. But raising petroleum prices is not acceptable to us. If the government has the support from 'all sides' then we can steer the country out of the crises. But if our hands are tied then we may take our allies into confidence and go to the masses," Sanaullah said.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who otherwise had a reputation of being an efficient administrator, so far could not make his presence felt, especially in key decision-making, as his role seems to have been reduced to an 'interlocutor' among his elder brother Nawaz Sharif, the establishment and the coalition partners, the PPP and JUI-F in particular.
Besides, Shehbaz Sharif, who looked very enthusiastic during the first couple of weeks after assuming charge, now seems to have lost the steam and is finding it hard to negotiate the difficult position his so-called government finds itself in today, Dawn reported.
Former federal minister Sheikh Rashid on Saturday claimed the PPP co-chairman had now shown flexibility regarding early elections because of the recent political developments.
"There are two groups in the PML-N over polls. At the end of the day, the government will have to concede to Imran Khan's demand for early election as he is not ready to budge, come what may," Rashid said.
The Nawaz-camp of the PML-N has already endorsed Khan's demand, saying it would not be wise for the Shehbaz-led coalition to burden the masses with further price hike and inflation because of the devastating policies of the previous PTI regime, the report said.
PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz also voiced her father's views on it, saying: "Nawaz Sharif is ready to say goodbye to the government, but not pass on the economic burden to the people of Pakistan, as there is no point in carrying the weight of the blunders of Imran Khan. It's better to go to the masses to seek a fresh mandate."