Shehbaz Sharif won’t like to be ‘PM for a day’

Published February 26, 2022
SHEIKH Rashid and Shehbaz Sharif.—PPI / Online
SHEIKH Rashid and Shehbaz Sharif.—PPI / Online

• Sanaullah says PDM-PPP differences over fresh polls after no-trust move are being sorted out
• Rashid warns whoever leaves PM’s side will make ‘serious mistake’

LAHORE: PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif may just not be interested in the fellow opposition PPP’s proposal that he takes the prime minister’s office for the year and a half till the next general elections, in case the no-confidence move against the incumbent Imran Khan succeeds.

“I am thankful to those who have proposed my name for the slot of prime minister… but who says I am taking the office (as premier) for a year or so? The decision about the new prime minister in the wake of the success of a no-trust move will be finalised by (PML-N Quaid) Nawaz Sharif in consultation with opposition parties,” Shehbaz Sharif said in an interaction with journalists here on Friday.

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, in his meeting with the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) earlier this week in the Punjab capital, had offered the premier’s slot to Shehbaz (in case Mr Khan is ousted).

Later in his meeting with Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq on Thursday, the former president claimed to have “selected” the opposition leader in the National Assembly as the next premier and also hinted that his party (PPP) might not join the cabinet and instead opt for posts like the assembly speaker (in the event the PTI government is sent home).

On the other hand, on Friday, Shehbaz asked PM Khan to get ready to face accountability for his “corruption through his cronies”.

“Instead of blaming the opposition, you (Khan) should put your own house in order. Under your nose, corruption worth billions of rupees has been committed in the LNG, sugar, wheat, medicines, Malam Jabba and BRT scams and you will have to answer for this,” he asserted.

To a question about bringing the no-trust motion against Imran Khan, the junior Sharif said: “Bringing a no-confidence motion is the opposition’s constitutional and political right and no one can dare stop it.”

In fact, he said, the miseries of the 220 million people of Pakistan at the hands of the Imran Khan government had forced the opposition to come up with the option. “The date for tabling it in parliament will be announced at an appropriate time,” he maintained.

A PDM insider says unless enough numbers in parliament are achieved and the opposition has complete clarity about the ruling PTI’s allies, there will be no haste in making the move. “We are not in a rush... let our homework be completed,” he remarked.

No consensus on snap polls

PML-N Punjab president Rana Sanaullah, meanwhile, confirmed differences between the PDM and PPP over fresh polls after sending the PTI government home.

“There is a difference on snap polls between the PDM and PPP, but this matter is under discussion and will be sorted out,” Sanaullah told a private TV channel on Friday.

He said the PML-N wanted free and fair polls immediately after succeeding in the no-confidence motion in the Centre.

Mr Sanaullah, who is considered close to Nawaz Sharif, also confirmed that the PTI MNAs ready to support the no-trust move had been promised PML-N tickets in exchange. “Currently, we are in talks with those PTI lawmakers who do not want to contest the next elections from its (PTI) platform. We will also adjust our party members in the constituencies where the PTI lawmakers will be given PML-N tickets,” he explained.

Asked if the opposition was ready to give the chief minister’s slot to Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, Mr Sanaullah claimed the position could be given to the Chaudhrys if that’s what it took to get rid of Imran Khan.

PML-Q denies seeking CMship

The PML-Q, however, on Friday dismissed reports that it had sought the Punjab chief minister’s slot in return for its support to the opposition’s no-trust move. “No decision on supporting the opposition in the Centre has been taken yet (by the PML-Q). The party has authorised Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi to take all the decisions (in this regard),” a party spokesperson said.

Interior minister’s warning

Meanwhile in Lahore, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid fired a warning shot that whoever leaves Prime Minister Imran Khan’s side will make a “serious mistake”.

Talking to reporters on Friday, Mr Rashid said: “Those who will switch their loyalties with Imran Khan will not be forgiven by the people. Any PTI ally considering leaving PM Khan’s side at this stage will commit a political blunder.”

He further alleged that the opposition was attempting to buy the loyalties of ruling party lawmakers, but that it would fail. The institutions were standing with the government, he claimed.

To a question about estranged PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, who has the backing of a good number of party lawmakers, the minister said he had asked the premier to talk to his old friend, but some party members did not approve of the idea.

“If rivals can meet after 14 years (a reference to Shehbaz and Chaudhrys of the PML-Q), why can’t Imran meet Tareen, as they both are friends?” he questioned.

Mr Rashid also said that no hurdle will be created in the PPP’s “peaceful” long march. This was decided in a meeting he earlier held with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. At the meeting, the leaders also constituted a joint coordination committee of the federal and provincial governments, comprising Interior Ministry and Punjab home department officials, to monitor the long march.

Meanwhile, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif sent a bouquet to PTI’s Jehangir Tareen and wished him a speedy recovery. Mr Tareen recently returned home from hospital after treatment for an illness.

Both the leaders had met in Lahore and the meeting was confirmed by Punjab minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan. Reportedly, Shehbaz has offered Tareen to join hands with the PML-N to oust PM Khan.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2022

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