LAHORE: Hemmed in by ‘looming political crisis’, the Punjab government has agreed to issue funds to a group of 20 disgruntled MPAs from remote districts.

Sardar Shahabuddin, along with 19 other MPAs from remote districts, recently gave vent to their disquiet and demanded funds as well as development projects for their constituencies.

In keeping with its policy, the PTI has executed projects through departments (bureaucracy) so far.

The PTI’s manifesto as well as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision do not allow distribution of public funds among MPAs and MNAs for development works as “they are supposed to focus on legislation for the public welfare.”

“The PTI government has decided in principle to release Rs100 million to Rs150 million to each MPA but a final announcement will be made at a meeting with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in a day or two,” confirmed the disgruntled group leader.

Responding to rumours that the 20 MPAs had created a pressure group (for and against CM Buzdar), Mr Shahabuddin denied both rumours and said they were loyal to the party, its policy and PM Imran Khan.

“We will support any in-house change in the Punjab Assembly, if driven by party chairman Imran Khan,” said Mr Shahabuddin, an MPA from PP-263 (Layyah-II).

Since CM Usman Buzdar is out of the city for the past two days, a party leader said the 20 MPAs would formally be released the development funds and “they will sit silent”.

The party leaders, however, agree that the PTI Punjab government has been caught in political crisis as Usman Buzdar has failed to deliver. The crisis took an ugly turn when PM Imran Khan allegedly himself created “political disconnect” in the province by empowering his chosen chief secretary retired Maj Azam Suleman and Punjab IG Shoaib Dastagir to seek advice from the Centre.

A party leader said the ‘transfer of power’ in the hands of the bureaucracy created unrest not among party leaders and members but among allies in the province. Acknowledging that some party MPAs and political allies have started weighing their options, the party leader said the rumours of any political change in Punjab would die down soon.

PTI Punjab president Ejaz Chaudhry said the 20 MPAs were loyal to the party and least bothered who was the chief minister. Asked whether the MPAs’ mild revolt within the party was a reaction to the transfer of power to the CS and IGP, he said it could be a reason.

Referring to PML-Q’s moves, Mr Chaudhry said PML-Q lawmakers led by Pervaiz Elahi were part of the government and “responsible allies. “The PTI government does not expect any non-seriousness from the PML-Q lawmakers,” he said.

About a demand for (five) ministries in the federal government, Mr Chaudhry said PM Imran Khan had decided in principle that not even a single ministry would be added to the already large cabinet. “The PTI wanted to keep its cabinet within two dozen members but it had increased ministries to accommodate the allied parties in the Centre,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2020