Chief ministers asked to win over ‘angry’ PTI lawmakers

Published February 23, 2022
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar (L) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan (R). — Photos via Twitter
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar (L) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan (R). — Photos via Twitter

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Preempting the opposition’s planned no-confidence move against the government, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) top leadership has tasked the chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with reaching out to any angry party lawmakers to pacify them regarding their concerns, as senior leaders of the top three opposition parties got together to discuss their strategy for ousting the Imran Khan government.

A senior federal government official told Dawn on Tuesday that the PTI leadership had tasked Punjab and KP chief ministers Usman Buzdar and Mahmood Khan, respectively, with establishing contacts with any possible dissident lawmakers of the party to allay their concerns regarding personal and development works in their constituencies.

“Since both MNAs and MPAs have issues related to their constituencies and personal tasks, the chief minister is the person concerned to address them, which is why both CMs have been assigned the job,” the official said.

PPP, PML-N, JUI-F leadership to meet again today after inconclusive meeting on Tuesday

He further said that on the return of Prime Minister Imran Khan from Russia, a federal government official would likely meet disgruntled PTI stalwart Jehangir Khan Tareen, who reportedly has the backing of a good number of MPAs and MNAs — mostly from south Punjab.

“The CMs have been given the task after the Imran Khan government became wary of the opposition’s moves, although the prime minister is putting up a brave face and asking his cabinet members not to worry about anything,” he said.

Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn on Tuesday the government was in touch with its lawmakers and fully confident that none would support any misadventure of the opposition. “The opposition is creating hype over a no-trust move against the government, but in practice it is nothing more than a storm in a teacup,” he said, adding the government would easily manage to defeat the opposition if it dared doing so.

Asked whether the military establishment was still backing the government, Mr Chaudhry said: “The establishment is part of the government in the constitutional scheme of things.”

Punjab Prisons Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan told Dawn that Mr Buzdar had been in touch with PTI lawmakers and any issues with their constituencies would be addressed.

“Tareen sahib is also in contact and if he has any issues the government can talk to him about them. We are positive that Mr Tareen will not fall into the Sharifs’ trap,” he said, claiming at least 15 PML-N and PPP MPAs from Punjab were in touch with the PTI and have promised to support the ruling party against any move by the opposition in the province. The PTI was also talking to some opposition MNAs, he added.

Meanwhile, the PPP, PML-N and JUI-F top leadership held an inconclusive meeting over dinner at Bilawal House in Lahore on Tuesday to further refine their anti-government strategy.

Shehbaz Sharif along with Ahsan Iqbal, Khwaja Saad Rafique, Rana Sanaullah and Marriyum Aurangzeb visited Bilawal House on the invitation of former president Asif Ali Zardari. As JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman could not turn up, it was decided to meet again on Wednesday (today) at the PML-N president’s residence, where Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the Maulana will also join them.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the JUI-F was represented by Maulana Fazl’s son Asad Mehmood and former KP chief minister Akram Durrani, while the hosts included Bilawal, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood.

Shehbaz and Zardari later held a one-on-one meeting also. The former president had earlier visited the PML-N leader at the latter’s residence on Feb 5 and also met Maulana Fazl in Islamabad this Monday.

Sources privy to the discussions on Tuesday say the PML-N suggested the prime minister be forced to take a vote of confidence instead of moving a no-trust motion against him. For the purpose, if the PTI allies — PML-Q, MQM and BAP — don’t part ways with it at least over a dozen disgruntled ruling party lawmakers should resign so the government loses its majority and the PM is compelled to take a vote of confidence, the sources added.

But the PPP proposed the opposition move against the National Assembly speaker first because of his crucial role in the no-trust vote process.

The sources said Makhdoom Ahmed briefed the participants about the position of the Tareen group and how much the opposition should expect from it.

A PML-N leader, who was part of the delegation, downplayed the meeting, saying no concrete strategy could be discussed. He could not say if Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari discussed anything worthwhile in their one-on-one sitting, but all issues were left for Wednesday’s meeting.

A statement issued after the meeting said the leaders discussed the proposed no-trust move against the government. The leadership was unanimous that inflation was hurting the masses and people could be saved only by sending the government home. They pledged to work diligently for fulfilling the wishes of the masses, it added.

The meeting also expressed concern over the lawlessness in the country and also opposed the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act ordinance, terming it a fascist and dictatorial law.

In Islamabad, the central Majlis-i-Shura of the JUI-F authorised party chief Maulana Fazl to make decisions about the opposition’s planned no-confidence motion against the government as well as next month’s long march.

According to an official statement issued by the JUI-F spokesman, the Maulana briefed the committee about his recent meetings with Mr Zardari, Mr Sharif as well as the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. He also informed them about the opposition’s strategy for moving a no-confidence motion and reviewed arrangements for the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s long march.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2022

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