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PTI chairman Imran Khan shakes hands with PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi at Banigala on Monday as Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain looks on.—Dawn
PTI chairman Imran Khan shakes hands with PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi at Banigala on Monday as Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain looks on.—Dawn

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Monday claimed to have secured the support of 168 National Assembly seats and 180 Punjab Assembly seats, declaring that it will form a government in Punjab as well as at the Centre with the help of its allies.

Besides having the support of seven independent candidates, the PTI declared to have Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (which won four NA seats), Grand Demo­cratic Alliance (two seats), Balochistan National Party (two seats) and Muttahida Qaumi Move­ment-Pakistan (six seats) as its coalition partners at the Centre.

An understanding was also reached between the PTI and PML-Q leadership at a meeting held at the Banigala where PTI chief Imran Khan told Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi that he would pick a candidate from his own party for the slot of Punjab chief minister while asking Mr Elahi to become speaker of the Punjab Assembly.

However, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi still hopes to get the position of Punjab chief minister, as later in a TV interview he said all options were open since nothing had been finalised so far. He also said he would retain one of the two National Assembly seats as well as the provincial seat before negotiating terms with the PTI. Mr Elahi said: “I will vacate the NA (Gujrat) seat only, as Moonis Elahi will contest the NA-69 seat. About the other NA (Chakwal) seat and the provincial assembly seat, the party will discuss it. We have yet not decided whether to keep the national or the provincial seat. This will be decided in the party meeting and later when we will negotiate and finalise terms with the PTI.”

Offers slot of Punjab Assembly speaker to PML-Q’s Pervaiz Elahi

“Today, we went there [Banigala] under the leadership of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain only to support Imran Khan as Pakistan is passing through difficult times. For this reason, we have pledged our support to Mr Khan in Punjab as well as at the Centre. The matter pertaining to Punjab chief minister’s office did not come under discussion at all today. We only reached an understanding to support each other in the province and at the Centre and solve all issues amicably.”

If Mr Elahi accepted the offer, the PML-Q was likely to get further share in both the federal and provincial governments under an agreed formula, said a source privy to the Banigala meeting.

PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry later addressing a press conference in Islamabad said his party had secured the support of 168 National Assembly seats and 180 Punjab Assembly seats. He named all the four expected allies but said talks with the MQM-Pakistan were under way. Mr Chaudhry said PTI leader Jahangir Tareen was headed to Karachi to negotiate terms with the MQM-P that had won six NA seats.

Mr Chaudhry said a “power-sharing formula” between the PTI and the PML-Q had been finalised and that the chief minister would be from the PTI. “We have achieved the required number to form the government in Punjab and the Centre,” he reiterated.

At Banigala, according to the source, Mr Khan told Mr Elahi that the coalition government in Punjab would need an experienced person like him to run the House in the face of a strong opposition from the PML-Nawaz. He appreciated Mr Elahi for serving well in Punjab during his tenure (2002-07) as the chief minister and said the PTI with the help of PML-Q would set an example of good governance in the province. Mr Khan was critical of the PML-N government that he said stopped all development projects initiated by of Mr Elahi replacing them with nepotism and corruption during the past 10 years.

The meeting was attended by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Pervaiz Elahi, Moonis Elahi, Tariq Bashir Cheema, Kamil Ali Agha and Salik Hussain from the PML-Q side.

Talking to Dawn,PML-Q spokesman Kamil Ali Agha ruled out media reports that Mr Elahi was striving for the slot of the chief minister of Punjab or any other lucrative seat. “Today, the main objective of our meeting was to end rumours that the PML-Q was running after any position in Punjab,” he said, adding that his party had announced unconditional support to Mr Khan.

Asked whether Mr Elahi had decided to leave his National Assembly seat and preferred to sit in the Punjab provincial Assembly, he said his party would meet on Tuesday to decide the matter.

Sources in the PTI said that the party was still looking for a ‘strong’ candidate (within the party) for the top slot though the names of Dr Yasmin Rashid, Aleem Khan and Fawad Chaudhry were doing the rounds for the coveted post. Mr Khan had not yet finalised a candidate as he was reportedly keen to nominate a person with a clean past and strong administrative background, the sources added.

Meanwhile, two candidates Basit Bukhari and Khurram Khan Leghari, who won general election from Muzaffargarh, joined the PTI on Monday. They called on Mr Khan at his Banigala residence and expressed complete confidence in PTI policies.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2018