Sharif sets demands, 3-day deadline for PPP government

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Jan 4 (PTI) Pakistan''s opposition leaderNawaz Sharif today gave the beleaguered government a 72-hourultimatum to act on several demands, including rollback of afuel price hike and probe into corruption scandals, failingwhich the PPP could be booted out from the Punjab government.

Sharif, chief of the country''s main opposition partythe PML-N, did not link the demands to support for thePakistan People''s Party-led government at the centre, whichwas reduced to a minority after the Muttahida Qaumi Movementwithdrew support to it last week.

However, sources said his stance was linked to PrimeMinister Yousuf Raza Gilani''s efforts to seek support from thePML-N yesterday.

"The PML-N has decided that the Prime Minister shouldbe given three days. He should inform us in 72 hours if hewill implement this agenda. We will wait for his reply in ayes or no," Sharif told a news conference.

If the government agreed to the PML-N''s demands, itshould take "formal action" to implement them within 45 days,Sharif said.

"The nation should see progress by February 20... Ifthe Prime Minister says he cannot (accept the demands) we willpart ways with the PPP in the Punjab government," he added.

The three-day deadline came as the PPP-led governmentis facing its worst crisis at the centre, being reduced to aminority following the pulling out of the MQM and JUI from theruling coalition.

Among the demands listed by PML-N were an immediaterollback of an unpopular fuel price hike announced on January1, a proper regime for settling fuel, gas and power tariffs sopeople are not burdened, an end to gas and power outages, andstopping corruption and sacking government employees andministers allegedly involved in graft.

The PML-N also demanded that the government shouldimplement all decisions of the superior judiciary, includingan order for action against those who benefited from acontroversial graft amnesty.

President Asif Ali Zardari was among the over 8,000people who benefited from the National ReconciliationOrdinance and the government has so far refused to act againsthim.

Sharif also called for the reorganisation of theElection Commission to ensure free and fair polls, a 30 percent cut in government spending, and a probe into majorscandals, including irregularities in the Haj pilgrimage,graft in state-run firms like the Pakistan Steel Mills andpayment of kickbacks in the purchase of Agosta submarines fromFrance.

The PML-N joined hands with the PPP to form acoalition government after the 2008 general election butSharif pulled his party out of the alliance within six months.

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