The coalition partners have started criticizing each other openly. The situation has worsened after local elections in Sindh and distribution of development funds among ministries. It is feared the government may collapse any time, which will have serious political and economic repercussions for the country.

However, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his ministers are still optimistic about completing their remaining term till August 2023. The problem for the government is that it is fast losing public support after it has taken some “tough” decisions to meet International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions for the revival of its package. As international oil prices are feared to rise further, their prices in Pakistan will also increase significantly. It means electricity will also become costlier and it would be difficult for the government to provide relief to people in the near future.

Secondly, it has been the dilemma of every coalition government in the past that partners start blackmailing it on every issue from day one. Imran Khan’s government had to face the issue in the Centre and Punjab till the end. Now the new government is facing the same issue. According to media reports, nearly all coalition partners vented their anger at the ruling PML-N in the National Assembly for changing its attitude and backtracking from the commitments it had made with them ahead of the no-confidence vote against former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

As the National Assembly approved 83 demands for grants for 30 ministries and divisions worth Rs4.57 trillion, all coalition partners were not happy. An independent MNA from Gwadar, Aslam Bhootani, who supports the government after withdrawing his support to the last PTI government, strongly protested against Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal for not including development schemes in his constituency in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) despite repeated requests by PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. To add insult to injury, he also praised the previous PTI government, stating that it had released billions of rupees for his region, which were cut by the new government. He said he was happy with the PTI government, but had joined the present coalition for the sake of Zardari, who had arranged for the support of 58 members for the government. Khalid Magsi of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), a key government ally, also expressed similar feelings, saying that it seemed that those who were desperate to obtain their support at the time of the no-confidence vote did not like their faces now. Osama Qadri of the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) castigated the PML-N and the PPP for not acting upon the agreements signed with the party at the time of the formation of the government.

Strangely, the most aggressive stance was adopted by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), which was one of the main components of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance and a key partner of the PML-N and the PPP on the opposition benches during the PTI rule. Federal Minister for Communications Asad Mehmood, who hails from JUI-F, protested the government’s decision to move the Supreme Court of Pakistan against a Federal Shariat Court (FSC) decision in the Riba case. Complaining that the government had made the decision without consulting his party, he threatened that his party could even quit the ruling alliance over the issue.

Differences have also emerged between the MQM and the PPP over the power of Karachi mayor. MQM convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui complained that the PPP wanted to give them a powerless mayor, who does not even have the power to pick garbage. The MQM had joined the coalition government on the condition that the PPP, which rules Sindh, would ensure a strong local government system in Sindh and a fully empowered mayor of Karachi.

Earlier, the first phase of local government elections in Sindh also widened differences among the coalition partners. As the PPP swept the polls, senior MQM leader and former Karachi mayor Wasim Akhtar accused the PPP of violating their agreement and stealing his party’s mandate through rigging and use of state machinery. The JUI-F and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) also rejected the results. JUI-F’s Rashid Mehmood Soomro alleged that he had been voting at a particular polling station for years but this time round his name was not included in the voter list. He said the election was marred by violence and rigging and ballots were stamped till 10pm in his union committee, while two terrorism cases had also been registered against a candidate of his party.

In fact, all parties in Sindh, except the PPP, called for intervention from higher authorities to declare the first phase of local government elections in four divisions of the province null and void. They accused the PPP of rigging, resorting to violence and using police as its armed wing for aggression against political opponents.

Rumour has it the government will fall after the revival of the IMF package, because Pakistan needs it badly for economic and political stability. Some experts claim former Prime Minister Imran Khan is also a binding force behind the unity of the coalition partners, though they have serious rifts among themselves. It is also said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which heads the government, is not willing to continue the job because it is facing criticism from people over high inflation, while other coalition partners are enjoying the perks of power at its cost. It is said PML-N leaders are also expressing their suspicions about the role of Asif Zardari in the formation of the coalition government and they believe it was a honey trap for them.

It is a reality that the PML-N has lost the most in the present situation, while all other partners, especially the PPP, are enjoying the power without any criticism. However, PML-N leaders have managed to drop all money laundering and corruption cases against them, which could be their biggest success.