LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shehbaz Sharif greets Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari at his residence in Model Town on Wednesday.—Dawn
LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shehbaz Sharif greets Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari at his residence in Model Town on Wednesday.—Dawn

LAHORE: The main opposition leadership on Wednesday held quite a few huddles here to give a final shape to its much-hyped no-confidence move against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The top PPP leadership of Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) president Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif at his Model Town residence where his elder brother and former premier Nawaz Sharif joined from London via video link.

The Maulana, who is also the head of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), also held a separate meeting with Shehbaz before the arrival of the PPP leaders in which they discussed the numbers game at length.

“The bringing of a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan next month; tallying the number of MNAs of the three parties — PML-N, PPP and JUI-F — [and those who were] approached separately to take them onboard in the move and who can be the prime minister in case the motion succeeds, were discussed in this important meeting,” a participant of the first huddle told Dawn.

PPP, JUI-F leaders call on Shehbaz; Maulana visits Chaudhrys of PML-Q again

“Talking about the next premier, one of the leaders (Mr Zardari) suggested the name of Shehbaz at which the latter chuckled.”

PPP chairman Bilawal has already offered the Sharifs the prime minister’s slot (in case the opposition’s move is successful). PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal had told Dawn that it was not an issue for his party as the incumbent’s ouster would become a “bridge for fresh polls”.

The source further said Mr Zardari had been entrusted with finalising matters with the government allies — PML-Q, MQM and BAP — and making sure the coalition partners part ways with Mr Khan.

Regarding the numbers game, the source said, the three opposition parties exchanged notes about the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) parliamentarians they had contacted and sought support for their move against the premier. “The PML-N presented the names of 16, PPP six and JUI-F two PTI MNAs that these parties believe have been won over and are ready to ditch the kaptaan (Imran Khan). Since the PTI coalition is hanging on a thin majority, this number is more than enough to oust it,” he said, adding the opposition was confident that even if they failed to achieve a breakthrough with the government’s coalition partners they had the required numbers to oust the prime minister.

“The PTI parliamentarians also include those backing Jehangir Tareen,” he said and added “every PTI lawmaker on board” had been given assurances individually by the opposition party dealing with them.

After the meeting of the opposition troika, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb told reporters that the “selected” prime minister had 20 days left in office. “The numbers game has been completed and the no-confidence motion will succeed,” she declared.

Ahsan Iqbal told Dawn on Wednesday that the opposition parties were moving ahead at a “satisfactory pace” to achieve their target of sending PM Khan home through a no-trust move. The parties had exchanged notes regarding their contacts with ruling party lawmakers and allies.

“We are very much positive that the allies will part ways with the government ahead of our move,” Mr Iqbal stated.

The PML-N statement said a joint committee of the opposition parties had been formed to decide the “date to move the no-confidence motion besides determining the political and legal strategy”.

The meeting also framed a charge-sheet against the PTI government for making people’s lives miserable through unprecedented price hike, inflation, unemployment, damaging national unity and gagging dissent.

“The opposition leaders analysed the overall situation in the country and agreed that the entire country is in agreement about getting rid of the incumbent government as soon as possible.”

Mission: woo Chaudhrys

After the opposition trio’s huddle, Maulana Fazl paid a follow-up visit to the PML-Q leadership – Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi – at their Gulberg residence. He told them about the opposition’s plans and sought their support – the PML-Q has five MNAs.

After the meeting, the PML-Q said in a statement that the political situation in the country and issues of mutual interest were discussed.

Meanwhile, former president Zardari hosted a dinner in the honour of Parvez Elahi, PML-Q federal ministers Moonis Elahi and Tariq Bashir Cheema, MNAs Salik Husain and Hussain Elahi, and Rasiq Elahi and Shafay Hussain at Bilawal House in a bid to convince them that supporting the opposition’s cause would also help them politically, as the PTI candidates and those supporting Imran Khan would face the wrath of the masses in the next elections.

According to a joint statement, the PPP and PML-Q agreed to take decisions in consultation with each other. “The leadership of PML and PPP expressed full confidence in each other. The political situation in the country and other issues of mutual interest were discussed in detail during the meeting.”

So far, the Chaudhrys have reportedly sought time for further deliberation on the opposition’s offer. Shehbaz Sharif recently met the Chaudhrys after 14 years and reportedly offered to shake hands with them in the future scheme of things.

On Tuesday, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi made it clear that in the political process, contacts were developed with everyone. “Keeping in view our political reputation, we will make decisions in the interest of Pakistan,” he stated. The PML-Q lawmakers have authorised Mr Elahi to make all future decisions (about the opposition’s offers to join it).

On the other hand, Mr Zardari is scheduled to meet Jamaat-i-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq on Thursday (today) at Mansoora to seek his party’s sole vote in the National Assembly for the opposition’s move. JI spokesperson Qaisar Sharif told Dawn that his party leadership would make a decision whether to support the opposition after consulting its Majlis-i-Shura.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2022

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