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Both sides were eager to avoid the appearance of a major rift, but analysts called the pull-out a huge set-back that could lead to growing instability.
The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says further cracks in the alliance may give a lease of life to pro-Musharraf parties which were defeated in recent elections.
However, he indicated that he would support the Pakistan People's Party-led government from the backbenches on an issue-by-issue basis. "We will not become part of any conspiracy to destabilise the democratic process," he said.
``The country is on the brink of a social upheaval because of food prices and the fact that people are struggling to survive,'' said Ishtiaq Ahmed, a political scientist at Quaid-i- Azam University in Islamabad. The division ``strengthens the hand'' of Musharraf's camp, ``which keeps power through a strategy of divide and rule,'' Ahmed said.
The Peoples Party will leave unfilled eight positions previously held by Sharif's party while it tries to resolve the dispute, replacing only Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, another member of the Muslim League.
``This is the budget season and there are pressing economic issues that call for the effective presence of a full-time Minister for Finance,'' Pakistan Peoples Party spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
With half of Pakistanis struggling to afford food, according to the World Food Program, the unraveling of the coalition may fuel social unrest. Musharraf's party lost the election in part because of soaring food costs. Every day, fights break out among people waiting to buy subsidized flour and other staples. The city of Multan erupted in riots April 14 over the nationwide electricity shortages that have shut factories and thrown laborers out of jobs.
``This is bad news for Pakistan because the country is facing problems too big for any single party to handle,'' said Talat Masood, a retired general and independent political consultant. ``For the Taliban, for the nationalist militants in Baluchistan, it's good'' because it narrows the government's political base, he said.
Originally posted by RabbitChaser
Just giving another take on this from another 'press' outlet. Is this the beginnings of a political 'mountain being made from a mole-hill' here, LOYAL... or does this mole-hill actually have the potential to grow quickly...?