LAHORE: The PTI government in Punjab sprang to its feet on Sunday to woo the senior party leader and former senior minister Abdul Aleem Khan who was in news in recent times reportedly for contacting PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah by phone. He was invited to meet Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Sunday while there were reports that he might join the Cabinet.

“It’s a right political move for damage control within the PTI,” a source close to the developments toldDawnand claimed that Aleem might be offered to return to the cabinet soon.

Aleem Khan, after his estrangement from his party, his arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and denial for his rejoining the Punjab cabinet after his release, had kept himself aloof and even left Lahore to settle down in Islamabad. He had also even called back his close confidant Shoaib Siddiqui from the general secretary office of the PTI Central Punjab.

As the situation started getting tricky for the PTI after its senior leader Jahangir Khan Tareen expressed his reservations against the PTI government in general and Prime Minister Imran Khan in particular, Aleem’s name had surfaced in the press for being in contact with Rana Sanaullah.

Though Mr Khan termed the news of his contact with Rana Sana a mere gossip, it helped him to come into the focus of the party leadership.

“PM Imran Khan will decide about any role for me and I will be ready to serve the party,” Aleem Khan said and made it clear that he had always stood by Imran Khan during party’s testing times and would continue serving the party in the future as well. He said that he had joined the PTI in 2011 to bring about change in the country and he had been standing by the party since then without any regret and complaint.

Alarm bells rang in the PTI ranks on Saturday when senior PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother MPA Khawaja Salman Rafique called on PTI’s close ally, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.

Sources say the PTI government has sprung into action for damage control and invited Aleem Khan to meet CM Buzdar, knowing well that the former had a lobby in the Punjab Assembly. Aleem might become instrumental in bringing about an in-house change in the Punjab Assembly also.

“Aleem Khan may be offered to return to the cabinet soon,” a source says. A TV news channel claimed that Aleem would take oath as the provincial minister at the Governor House on Monday (today).

The PTI had also faced a backlash from the party’s 20 MPAs who were demanding funds for their constituencies but were admonished by none other than the PM himself in an all-MPAs meeting at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat.

On the other hand, it may be mentioned, the PML-N was already claiming that many a PTI MPAs in Punjab was in contact with the PML-N.

Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz is on record, saying that the PML-N was open for talks with others, adding “in-house change is a democratic process”.

In the meeting with CM Buzdar, Aleem discussed “matters of mutual interest and current political scenario”.

Mr Buzdar regretted that the opposition parties had done only oral calculations on the important national issue of the coronavirus pandemic. The opposition should come to know loud and clear that public service could not be done merely by giving statements, he added.

“How come those going abroad by deserting the masses in this time of difficulty and need could become their benefactors,” Mr Buzdar said.

Referring to the coronavirus pandemic hurting the humanity across the world, Mr Buzdar said it was high time that all should stand by the masses in order to serve them. He said the PTI leadership was standing shoulder to shoulder with the masses to effectively deal with coronavirus pandemic.

Condemning the nefarious designs of the opposition parties, he said, “By indulging in negative politics on the important national issue, the opposition parties have proved that they only want to safeguard their vested interests”.

Urging unity at national level to eradicate coronavirus pandemic, the chief minister said that everything had changed, including politics, across the globe owing to the pandemic but the negative attitude of the opposition had not changed a bit.

Aleem Khan said it was time to render selfless service to the humanity and all needed to get united to effectively deal with the pandemic.

“The endeavours of the opposition parties to disunite the nation in this hour of trial are highly lamentable,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2020

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