Indecision on snap polls a hurdle to no-trust move

Published February 25, 2022
PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari (L) meets Jamaat-i-Islami  Emir Sirajul Haq on Thursday. — Photo via JI Twitter
PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari (L) meets Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq on Thursday. — Photo via JI Twitter

LAHORE: The major stumbling block the nine-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), is facing while trying to take the government allies onboard to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan is a decision about snap polls should the no-confidence move succeed.

Neither the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) allies — PML-Q, MQM and BAP — nor the PPP is in favour of fresh polls.

“The PML-N wants fresh elections soon after sending the prime minister home as it suits the Sharifs’ party,” a PDM insider told Dawn on Thursday.

Talking about the alliance’s huddles with the PPP and the allies so far, he said: “At this stage, the major issue to be settled among all the opposition parties and the government’s coalition partners is whether polls should be held immediately after toppling the Imran Khan government or the incoming opposition government complete the remaining one and a half years till the scheduled general elections late next year,” he said, adding the rest of the matters had taken a backseat for a while.

Zardari meets Siraj, offers JI Karachi mayor’s post; Moonis tells NA speaker discussions ongoing, no decision taken yet

“PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday tried his best to persuade PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif (who attended the huddle in Model Town via a video link) to give up his demand for snap polls as it will make things complicated. Zaradri told the meeting that it will be unwise to dissolve the assemblies (after the success of the opposition’s move). In Sindh, we are in government and Punjab will also eventually land in the hands of the opposition after the departure of the PTI government in the Centre. During the period till the scheduled general polls, Zardari suggested they try to fix the economy and improve governance.”

The issue remained unsettled as the senior Sharif deferred it for another meeting.

A PPP source also confirmed that the party’s top leadership was not in favour of dissolving assemblies. “Similarly, when Mr Zardari, who has been entrusted by the PDM to negotiate terms with the government allies, was told by the Chaudhrys of the PML-Q that they will consider the opposition’s offer once it was mutually decided that the new government after the success of no-trust move would complete the remaining term (till late next year),” he said. Mr Zardari has already offered the prime minister’s slot to PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif (in case Khan is ousted).

When asked about the reports that Mr Zardari offered Punjab chief minister’s slot to Chaudhry Parvez Elahi after a consensus with the PDM, the source said: “No one will be interested in a short-term chief ministership or other positions (in the government).”

About why the party was not conceding to the PPP’s proposition in this regard, a senior PML-N leader said: “The PPP and others know that in fresh elections the PML-N will emerge victorious and form the next government. Except the PML-N, fresh elections do not suit anyone. Besides, if the opposition forms the government after sending the PTI home, we (PDM and PPP) may not steer the country out of the economic crisis in the remaining one and a half years, thus giving the PTI an opportunity to bounce back.”

On the other hand, the PDM and PPP on Thursday formed a joint committee comprising Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Sanaullah and Saad Rafique from the PML-N, Senate opposition leader Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Naveed Qamar of the PPP and Maulana Asad Mahmood of the JUI-F to reach out to the PTI MNAs and government allies to finalise modalities of a ‘package’ the opposition is offering them.

Zardari-JI meeting

Former president Zardari on Thursday at least won hearts, if not consent, of the Jamaat-i-Islami, which has two crucial votes in parliament, for the opposition’s planned no-confidence bid.

According to insiders, the final consent of the JI may be a matter of a few days as its central executive committee was in session on Thursday and the central shura begins its session from Friday (today).

According to them, a confident Zardari though did not reveal the final figure the opposition has with it right now, but claimed to have enough numbers on “his side” and explained his visit to the JI headquarters, saying each vote counts. He also told the Jamaat he wanted their two parties to cooperate for the betterment of Karachi — a former Jamaat stronghold. The JI readily agreed.

The former president, claiming to have “selected” Shehbaz Sharif as the next prime minister, also hinted for the first time: “The PPP may not join the executive (cabinet) posts and opt for slots like the assembly speaker. Shehbaz Sharif will have a free hand to run the government and complete a consensus legislative agenda — such as laws on election reforms, vote for expats etc — before calling the next elections.”

Talking about the future of Punjab, he reiterated his choice of PML-Q’s Parvez Elahi for the chief ministership and said the details were being worked out.

According to a JI press release, its Emir Sirajul Haq and Asif Zardari agreed that the masses were adversely affected due to the skyrocketing inflation and unemployment caused by the PTI’s incompetence and ill-conceived policies.

Former prime minister Raja Parvez Ashraf was a part of the PPP delegation. JI vice emir Liaquat Baloch, secretary general Ameerul Azim, information secretary Qaisar Sharif and others were also present on occasion. Mr Haq agreed to continue their contacts. Mr Baloch and Mr Ashraf jointly briefed the media after the meeting.

NA speaker meets Moonis

Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser called on PML-Q’s federal minister Moonis Elahi and discussed the current political situation arising out of the opposition’s possible no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“Speaker National Assembly @AsadQaiserPTI sb called me and we discussed current situation. I told him that political discussions and consultations are going on . This does not mean any decision has been taken. We are bound to our commitments and will honor them fully,” Moonis said in a tweet.

The NA speaker had earlier held a meeting with PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Parvez Elahi and Moonis.

Mr Qaiser’s visit to the Chaudhrys’ residence was conspicuous since the PML-Q had held meetings with PPP co-chairman Zardari and MQM-P leaders.

Mr Qaiser, according to sources, had particularly asked about Zardari’s meeting with the PML-Q. The Chaudhrys had told him they had old relations with the PPP leader and he had come to inquire after Mr Hussain.

Fawad’s reaction

Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday claimed the PML-N, PPP and some individuals in the media seemed terrified by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Russia.

In a tweet, he said the opposition was so frightened by the visit as if its blood had been drained out. Their only problem was that their money was stashed in the West that had kept their breaths on hold, he remarked.

Mansoor Malik also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2022

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