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Key party leaves Pakistan's ruling coalition to join opposition.

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 3 Kyodo

The second-largest party in Pakistan's ruling coalition, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, decided Sunday to sit on the opposition benches in the country's two houses of parliament, the party said.

With the exit from the coalition of MQM, which holds 25 seats in the national assembly, the Pakistan People's Party-led government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has lost majority in the national assembly.

''We have decided to sit in the opposition benches in the Senate and the national assembly,'' two MQM leaders announced after a joint meeting of the party's parliamentarians in Karachi.

''We have decided to sit on the opposition benches because of the mounting public pressure,'' a press release issued by the party said.

Party parliamentarians Haider Abbas Rizvi and Faisal Sabazwari told media in Karachi that MQM had been forced to leave the government benches because of mounting corruption and galloping inflation.

''We will support the government if it acts in the larger interest of the people,'' Rizvi said.

MQM is also a coalition partner in the Sindh provincial government but Rizvi said the party had not decided whether to cease cooperation with the PPP in the provincial government.

Prime Minister Gilani's government had announced a 9 percent increase in the price of oil on New Year's Eve, triggering a wave of protests from people already facing two-digit inflation and energy shortages.

With the departure of MQM from the coalition, the government now has the support of 158 members in the national assembly, with 173 in opposition. However, the opposition was fragmented and it was difficult for the opposition parties to agree on a consensus candidate for the new prime minister.

''We are not going anywhere. We will last despite all the odds,'' Gilani told media in Lahore following reports of the MQM decision to sit in opposition.

While it is unclear whether the opposition will bring a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister, the government will now have a hard time securing approval for bills in the parliament.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jan 3, 2011
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