THERE have been problems between the central government's coalition partners at the provincial level, which may well have an impact at the Central level. The latest manifestation has been ANP chief Asfandyar Wali's statement to the press that the patriotic-song issue was being raised by the JUI(F) against his party to divert attention from the ANP-led government having cancelled the allotment of land to JUI(F) head Maulana Fazlur Rehman, made to gain his support for the passage of the 17th Amendment. Mr Asfandyar Wali has defended this action by his party's NWFP government as being pro-people, but when this is seen in the backdrop of the differences between the MQM and the PPP in the province, and over portfolio distribution in the Centre itself, a pattern emerges disquieting to believers in democracy. That is one of the PPP, mainly responsible for the carrying on government, getting bogged down in quarrels with smaller coalition partners at the Centre because of problems in the province, in two of the provinces where it has helped form the government. In the NWFP, the ANP rules, but with PPP support. In Sindh, the PPP alone formed the government, but the MQM is supporting the government. The PPP has already parted ways with its biggest coalition partner, the PML(N), because it was not willing to accommodate it over the judges issue. The PPP had taken on board the other parties to lend itself stability at the Centre, but that had as a corollary taking them on board at the provincial level, even if the provincial PPP did not need such support. This applied both to the NWFP and Sindh, where there were reasonable majorities already present. The NWFP is particularly painful for the PPP, where it will have to choose sides in a quarrel between two central coalition partners. The only benefit will accrue to the backstage forces, which are always awaiting opportunities which they can exploit for their own ends, which are to prevent the strengthening of democracy in Pakistan.