LAHORE: PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari had proposed bringing in a no-confidence motion against the beleaguered Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and replacing him with PML-Q’s Chaudhry Pervez Elahi — “a move that has the backing of the establishment”, disclosed PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz on Saturday.

“In the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) meeting, Asif Zardari sahib proposed that if the PML-N and PDM agree then we can bring in a change in Punjab (through a vote of no-confidence against CM Buzdar) and make Pervez Elahi sahib or someone else the chief minister. We were told that the selectors (establishment) too wanted a change in Punjab as (Prime Minister) Imran Khan was backing him (Buzdar). But Nawaz Sharif did not agree,” Ms Nawaz said while talking to reporters outside the Lahore High Court where she had gone to submit her bail bond of Rs1 million in a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry against her into the alleged illegal acquisition of 148 kanals of land in Lahore. She is on interim bail till April 12 in the investigation.

“Nawaz Sharif had rejected the proposal as his stance was categorical that there should be no role of the selectors in politics and he is sticking to his party narrative that the selectors should work within their defined role in the constitution,” she said and added that the PML-N would not compromise on its narrative otherwise power was dear to everyone.

Says suggestion was for bringing about in-house change in Punjab; regrets PPP damaged democracy cause for temporary benefit

Reacting to Ms Nawaz’s statement, PML-Q lawmaker Moonis Elahi claimed: “We were not approached by any party for a change in Punjab.”

The PML-Q has 10 members in the Punjab Assembly and Mr Elahi is the House speaker.

After the success of former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Senate poll defeating PTI’s Abdul Hafeez Sheikh this month, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had talked about bringing in a change in Punjab. At that time, the PML-N kept mum over the matter, giving an impression that it had no issue with the proposal.

The performance of Mr Buzdar has been repeatedly questioned, as he has completely failed to deliver, according to the opposition. Besides, Prime Minister Imran Khan has reportedly been facing immense pressure from the establishment to replace him as the chief minister for better delivery.

It is said that PM Khan may have to succumb to the pressure soon as he will have to realise that without good governance in Punjab the ruling party hardly stands a chance to return to power a second time.

“Maryam Nawaz’s disclosure says that Mr Buzdar has been a constant bone of contention between Imran Khan and the establishment. And if Mr Khan sticks to his handpicked candidate, the relations between him and the establishment will not remain ideal,” a PML-N leader told Dawn.

Interestingly, the investigation launched by the NAB against Mr Buzdar last year for allegedly receiving Rs50 million in bribe to force the excise department to issue a liquor licence to a hotel in Lahore in violation of the law has not yet been closed. “There is no clean chit for Mr Buzdar in this investigation as yet,” an official said.

PPP bashing

Not happy with the PPP for getting Mr Gilani elected as the Senate opposition leader with the help of the lawmakers from the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), an ally of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, Ms Nawaz said: “For a small benefit, it (PPP) sought the BAP’s votes and damaged the cause of democracy. It is a defeat for those who sacrificed their principles for a small and temporary benefit. The PML-N would not have formed a government if it got that slot. I wonder how you (PPP) secured the votes from the BAP. The BAP doesn’t support anyone without the permission of its baap (father, a reference to the establishment). “On its father’s orders, the BAP members sit on either opposition or treasury benches.”

Like her fellow party leaders, she said if the PPP was so desperate to grab the opposition leader’s seat and had some compulsions, it should have told Nawaz Sharif, who would have happily given it to it like he did in Mr Gilani’s election to the Senate and as a candidate for the Senate chairmanship.

“For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the government senators elected the leader of the opposition,” she said and added that after getting the BAP’s votes he (Gilani) was not elected rather he, too, had been selected.

She claimed that PML-N candidate Azam Nazeer Tarar had received a call from Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani offering the help of the BAP, but Mr Tarar refused.

Line drawn

Ms Nawaz further exclaimed that a clear line had been drawn between the democratic and non-democratic forces, and the people knew this.

Without naming the PPP leadership, she said that to be a “selected”, they would have to follow in the footsteps of Imran Khan. “You will have to be obedient like Imran Khan if you want to be selected like him,” she remarked.

When asked if Mr Zardari played better politics, she said it was a case of sacrificing one’s principles.

Talking about the future of the opposition’s PDM alliance, the PML-N leader said: “I want to know PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s stance on this matter.”

She regretted that for a small gain the PPP damaged the PDM cause, democracy and the struggle for the supremacy of people’s rights.

The PPP had previously agreed to appoint a PML-N lawmaker as the opposition leader in the Senate in return for the nomination of Mr Gilani for the office of Senate chairman, but after Mr Gilani’s defeat, the situation changed.

The PPP not only rejected Mr Tarar’s nomination, but also lodged a protest over it with the PML-N leadership as the PML-N leader is a lawyer for the accused police officials in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2021

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