3 Jan 2011

Coalition govt loses majority in parliament

6:45 pm on 3 January 2011

The coalition government in Pakistan has lost its majority in parliament. The MQM party says it is leaving the coalition to join the opposition.

The move will deprive Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani of his majority in parliament.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the second largest party in the coalition, withdrew two ministers from the federal cabinet last week.

Mr Gilani denies his government is in danger of collapsing.

"I don't see any crisis," he said on television after the announcement.

The governing coalition previously had 181 seats - including the MQM's 25 - in the 342-member parliament.

The BBC reports the MQM's departure leaves Mr Gilani's Pakistan People's Party well below the 172 seats needed to preserve its majority.

A statement issued by MQM said:

"Right at the start of the new year the government has raised the prices of petrol and kerosene oil which is unbearable for the people who are already under pressure from the already high prices."

A smaller coalition partner, the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam party, withdrew from the government earlier in December after one of its ministers was sacked.

The BBC reports many in Pakistan believe the two parties are acting at the behest of the security establishment to undermine the country's political system.