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PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan avoided directly addressing whether his faction would support a no-confidence vote.

“We will not destabilize this government, but if it loses its majority, we will not support it,” he said. “We will in no way give it a shoulder.”

The PML-N, headed by former Prime Minister Sharif, holds the second largest number of seats in parliament and is believed to be the most popular party in the country. It is more aligned with religious conservatives than the PPP and has not been as vocal in opposing the Taliban — a position that could cause some discomfort in Washington, which needs Pakistan’s help in ending the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The PML-N would likely be loath to take the reins of a new government at such a difficult time.

The IMF has demanded that Pakistan significantly reform its economy, including deep cuts to its deficit, in order to keep the loan program going. The international assistance took on added importance after the massive floods of late 2010 that affected some 20 million people.

But the economic reforms, notably a revised general sales tax, are unpopular and have given the opposition — as well as the MQM and the JUI — something to rail against.

The lack of progress and political bickering has upset many Pakistanis.

“There is no electricity, no gas, no jobs and they are fighting one another,” said Arif Fasiullah, 35, of the central city of Multan, in a recent interview. “They do not pass any legislation. They just do dirty politics.”

Pakistan’s inflation rate is above 15 percent annually, according to government statistics, and the poorest are feeling the pain most.

The People's Party took power in February 2008 in elections that brought Pakistan out of nearly a decade of military rule. It rode to power on a wave of sympathy after its leader, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated.

But its popularity has slipped as Pakistan has grappled with severe economic problems and frequent militant attacks.

Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, Ashraf Khan in Karachi, Khalid Tanveer in Multan and Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.