PML-N, PPP hold meeting to sort out differences within ruling coalition over budge

Islamabad: Key leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are holding meetings to sort out their disagreement over budget amid rumours of intensifying discord between the two major parties of the coalition government ahead of the general election, according to media reports.

The attempt by the PML-N and PPP to sort out their ‘differences’ made some headway but remained inconclusive on Monday, with both sides likely to sit together again on Tuesday, the Dawn newspaper reported.

At Monday’s meeting, the PML-N side was represented by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Economic Affairs Minister Ayaz Sadiq, while the PPP delegation consisted of Syed Khursheed Shah, Naveed Qamar and Sherry Rehman.

Sources in both parties told Dawn that a meeting was held at the Prime Minister’s House, but Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif did not take part.

The report said the PPP delegation laid some of its reservations before the PML-N members and demanded that adequate funds be provided for flood victims of Sindh.

They said Prime Minister Sharif had visited flood areas and promised to allocate the required funds for the flood-affected people of the province. However, no funds were earmarked in this regard in the budget 2023-24, they added.

Sources said the government side had agreed to provide Rs 25 billion for flood victims, but the decision required the consent of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

The report also said the PPP demanded the holding of general elections at their scheduled time in November this year.

The current National Assembly will complete its five-year term on August 12 and the fresh general election must be conducted within 60 days as laid down in the Constitution of Pakistan.

The meeting later decided that the government side will apprise the prime minister of the outcome of the meeting, while the PPP team will relay their decision to Bhutto-Zardari.

Meanwhile, the PPP chairman denied the impression that there was any “political difference” between his party and the PML-N, hoping that the politics of both parties would be carried forward according to the Charter of Democracy.

“I don’t see any disagreement with the PML-N in the future as well,” Bilawal told media persons in Karachi.

The rumours of differences between the two parties spread after Foreign Minister Bhutto-Zardari, the scion of the Bhutto dynasty, in a public gathering in Swat on Saturday accused the ruling coalition government of ignoring the provinces that bore the brunt of last year’s devastating floods in the proposed budget.

Responding to Bilawal’s remarks, PML-N senior leader Ahsan Iqbal stressed that the coalition partners should sort out all issues in cabinet meetings and not in public rallies.

Earlier, Bilawal had said his party will abstain from endorsing the recently-announced budget in the National Assembly unless the commitments made to the party regarding areas affected by flooding are honoured.

Differences among PPP and PML-N are ‘intensifying’, Ary News reported.

The PML-N is giving ‘preference’ to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) over the PPP due to which the working relationship between both parties remains no longer ‘ideal’, it said quoting sources.

PPP alleged that PML-N is compensating JUI-F with the record development projects and the funds in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. PPP ministers and assistants are being neglected in KP, the sources claimed.

It has further emerged that the reservations have been taken up with the PML-N and JUI-F by the PPP leadership several times but they remain ‘unaddressed.’ The growing tension between the PML-N and PPP may prompt Asif Zardari, the PPP Co-chairman who is currently in the UAE, to intervene and return earlier than planned, Geo news said citing sources.

While this attempt at rapprochement was underway, the National Assembly saw PPP lawmakers continuing their criticism of the PML-N’s budget.