LAHORE: Weeks after expressing discomfort with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, its estranged ally Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) on Monday agreed to bury the hatchet on the promise of due share in power and consultation on important policy issues.
The PML-Q, which had refused over a week ago to hold talks with the government before it implemented ‘settled matters’, after meeting yet another ‘high-powered’ committee formed by Prime Minister Imran Khan stood convinced that all outstanding issues had been resolved.
Senior leader of the PML-Q and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi declared after the meeting: “All outstanding matters with the government stand resolved after today’s talks.
“We do not doubt Imran Khan’s intention and leadership. We want him to take his allies along in important decisions. We want this alliance to remain intact and contest next elections together.”
The PTI’s new panel, comprising Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Planning and Development Minister Asad Umer, called on the Chaudhrys at their Gulberg residence to iron out the differences over power sharing, especially in Punjab.
MNAs Moonis Elahi and Hussain Elahi, federal Minister for Housing Tariq Bashir Cheema, former senator Kamil Ali Agha and Chaudhry Shafey Hussain represented the PML-Q during the talks.
The gulf between the ruling coalition partners had widened after PM Khan had stopped his confidant Jahangir Tareen from holding further talks with the allies about two weeks ago, reportedly on the complaint that he was more inclined in protecting the interest of the disgruntled allies than the PTI’s.
About the Monday meeting, Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi said: “The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere. [We] agreed that whatever the situation arises we will handle it together with mutual consultation.” He said his party wanted that the masses could see the tabdeeli (change) during PM Khan’s tenure.
Commenting on what the government committee agreed to at the Monday meeting, Moonis Elahi told Dawn that it (committee) gave its word that whatever had been settled with Mr Tareen-led committee would be implemented in letter and spirit.
“No new negotiations were held in Monday’s talks,” he claimed.
The PML-Q lawmaker said it was agreed if any power sharing issue emerged in the districts where the PML-Q leaders had been elected, it would be settled through discussion.
Mr Moonis said the government committee also agreed to revisit local body law to address PML-Q concerns. “We have told the committee that it is necessary to address some fundamental flaws in the local body law before going into polls... and we hope the government will address them.”
During the talks, the PML-Q did not press the committee for a second ministry at Centre that the PTI government had agreed to give to its coalition partner after the 2018 elections. “We have stopped demanding the second federal ministry from the PTI government after Imran Khan declared that he was not comfortable with having Moonis Elahi in his team,” a PML-Q source said.
The PML-Q has one ministry at the Centre and two in Punjab. It has 10 MPAs in Punjab where the Usman Buzdar government is ruling with a very thin majority.
Following the talks, the defence minister said there had been no threat to the ruling coalition as the “misunderstandings” between the coalition partners had been removed.
“None of our allies are abandoning us. The issues between the government and the PML-Q were of insignificant nature but blown out of proportion. We were partners before and will continue to remain so.”
Mr Khattak said: “If allies are not taken onboard, there can be problems. We make sure that decisions are taken with mutual consultation and this coalition will last for next three years of the government and contest next elections together.”
Before meeting the PML-Q leadership, CM Buzdar met some members of the new committee at his office and agreed to improve working relationship with the PML-Q and make it part of the Punjab government consultation process.
Mr Buzdar said: “Necessary steps will be taken to improve the working relationship with the PML-Q. Those creating misunderstandings between them will be frustrated and the alliance will continue [to work together].”
Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar said this alliance was in the country’s larger interest and ‘conspirators’ would be disappointed.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2020