PML-Q to meet PTI to decide future of coalition in Punjab, Centre

Updated January 15, 2020

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Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak (pictured), senior PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Arbab Shahzad will represent the PTI in the talks. — INP/File
Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak (pictured), senior PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Arbab Shahzad will represent the PTI in the talks. — INP/File

GUJRAT: The PML-Q is all set to hold, what is being touted as, the final round of talks with the senior leadership of the ruling PTI on Wednesday (today) in Islamabad apparently in a bid to achieve what the PTI pledged to it while forming coalition governments in the Centre as well as in Punjab after winning the 2018 general elections.

Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, senior PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Arbab Shahzad will represent the PTI in the talks, while the PML-Q delegation will comprise federal minister Tariq Basheer Cheema, MNAs Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, Chaudhry Salik Hussain and Chaudhry Hussain Elahi. Punjab Chief Secretary Azam Suleman and Inspector General of Police Shoaib Dastgir are also scheduled to attend the meeting.

After skipping Tuesday’s federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad, it is being said that the PML-Q’s decision to remain in coalition with the PTI depended on the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting. A senior PML-Q leader said his party’s ministers and lawmakers were already under pressure for failing to achieve what they were committed regarding a share in the administration as well as development budgets for their respective constituencies.

Two meetings between the representatives of both coalition partners had already taken place in the last couple of weeks. PML-Q MNA Moonis Elahi had also met with Prime Minister Imran Khan recently during which issues pertaining to the commitments made to the Q League were discussed.

Currently, Tariq Cheema is the lone federal minister from the PML-Q whose leadership had also asked for a federal ministry for Moonis Elahi as per an agreement with the ruling PTI. However that commitment was yet to be fulfilled.

Sources said that the PML-Q had conveyed to the PTI to resolve the issues otherwise they could be meeting for the last meeting over this agenda, as the Q leadership could reconsider its decision to sit in the governments in Punjab and Centre.

In a previous meeting between both the parties, sources said Moonis Elahi had reminded federal minister Asad Umar about a written agreement for power sharing between the allied parties.

According to the formula, both Q ministers in Punjab -- Hafiz Ammar Yasir and Bau Rizwan -- will be consulted in matters of transfers and postings in their respective ministries. The PML-Q will have complete say in the administrative affairs and transfer/posting in at least three districts and as many tehsils of Punjab apart from a major share in the development budget for the schemes proposed by Q lawmakers.

As per the agreement, the Q League had been assured of administrative control of Gujrat, Chakwal and Bahawalpur districts as well as Daska (Sialkot), Phalia and Mandi Bahauddin tehsils where transfers/postings of officers in police, administration and other government departments would be made as per the recommendations of the PML-Q.

But reportedly the party lawmakers had serious reservations over these matters.

The sources also said that the PTI had pledged two federal and as many provincial ministries and the Punjab Assembly speaker’s slot to PML-Q nominees, but the commitment had not been entirely fulfilled.

MNA Moonis Elahi, when asked about his party’s reservations and future course of action regarding the coalition with PTI, told Dawn that the ruling party had started violating the agreements with the PML-Q even prior to the 2018 polls when it did not honour the seat adjustment formula agreed between the two parties – the PTI awarded party tickets to its nominees in the Q’s stronghold and fielded a candidate against Q’s Cheema in his constituency.

Similarly, he said, after formation of the federal and Punjab governments, initially the PTI did not include the Q’s second nominee Bau Rizwan in the Punjab cabinet; he was only inducted when the other Q minister, Hafiz Yasir, had resigned in protest against consistent intervention of the PTI in the affairs of his ministry.

The MNA also claimed that he had categorically told PM Khan that he was not interested in becoming a federal minister as he had paved the way for two Q nominees getting federal ministries during its coalition with the PPP (2011-2013).

Mr Elahi said the PTI should adopt a balanced approach while running Punjab where he said the political segment of the rule should not be ignored. He added that the federal government had given a Rs10 billion development package to the Balochistan National Party-Mengal -- another ally in the federal government, but the PML-Q should be given a better uplift package as it was a bigger party and a partner in Punjab and Centre both.

Asked about his party’s role in case of an in-house change in the federal as well as Punjab governments, he ruled out any such possibility and apprehended that such a move could lead to political chaos or disillusionment of parliament, which might benefit the opposition parties.

As far as contacts of the PML-Q with other parties, including the PML-N, was concerned, the MNA said one should keep in mind that all political parties always kept in touch with each other, adding that the scheduled meeting between both the coalition partners would be crucial in terms of his party’s future course of action regarding relationship with the PTI.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2020