Pakistan’s prime minister tried Monday to keep his ruling coalition in power after a key party said it was defecting to the opposition, leaving the government without majority support in parliament.
The loss of the second-largest party in the coalition creates new political turmoil that could provide another excuse to put off a military offensive against Taliban and al-Qaida militants — something the U.S. has been pushing its allies in the Pakistani government to do. Security, however, is largely the purview of Pakistan’s powerful military.
The shift in the political landscape is not expected to lead to a collapse of the fragile government. But any additional instability could work against U.S. objectives for the war at a time when cutting the Taliban off inside Pakistan is critical for any lasting progress in Afghanistan.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement said Sunday it was joining the opposition because of fuel price hikes, inflation and the generally poor performance of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The government announced hikes in gas and heating oil prices on New Year’s Eve.