LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: Following the opposition’s submission of a no-trust resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the National Assembly, all guns seem to be pointing at the Punjab chief minister now. This was the backdrop in which the prime minister met Usman Buzdar and pacified him that he will continue to rule the province till the end of the ruling party’s five-year-term.
Soon after the submission of the no-confidence motion, Mr Khan met a number of digital journalists and categorically stated he was going nowhere and that he did not fear the opposition’s move.
According to the information minister, Mr Buzdar also had a one-on-one meeting with Imran Khan at PM House. Media reports suggested that the Punjab CM offered his resignation so the premier could appease disgruntled PTI leaders Aleem Khan and Jehangir Tareen, who have sought the former’s removal. However, Mr Khan is said to have rejected the resignation and told Mr Buzdar he will continue to serve as the Punjab chief minister till the PTI completes its rule.
The PM told the journalists Mr Buzdar was an “easy target” and only disliked by those who were eyeing the chief minister’s office.
Imran assures CM he will remain till the end, both meet MNAs from Punjab
Separately, Mr Khan held meetings with a number of legislators in his office, including Fazal Muhammad Khan, Muhammad Afzal Khan Dhandla, Ghulam Muhammad Lali, Amjad Khan Niazi, Makhdoom Samiul Hassan, Yaqoob Sheikh, Sajida Zulfiqar and Andleeb Abbas.
Senior PTI leaders Asad Umar, Pervaiz Khattak, Shafqat Mehmood and Amir Dogar were also present in the meetings.
Meanwhile, Mr Buzdar also sprung into action and met MNAs from Punjab to discuss the current political situation, strategy to foil the no-confidence motion and chalking out the future course of action.
In the backdrop of Aleem and Tareen’s demand to remove the chief minister, the federal government had agreed to placate its party’s disgruntled leaders and asked them to propose names for a successor. However, the Chaudhrys of the PML-Q forewarned their coalition partner, the PTI, against considering the name of PM Khan’s ‘old friend’ Aleem Khan for the CM’s slot.
Khattak’s shuttle diplomacy
Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak on Tuesday contacted both the Tareen group, which purportedly comprises over two dozen MPAs and about 10 MNA mostly from south Punjab, and the PML-Q leadership over the Buzdar-related dilemma. “Mr Khattak told the Tareen group that if it was not happy with CM Buzdar it should propose a name as the replacement and that the government may consider it,” a party insider told Dawn.
The Tareen group held another huddle on Tuesday in which the senior PTI leader spoke to his supporters via a video link from London. The members pledged to stay united under Mr Tareen’s leadership.
After the meeting, a member of the group, Nauman Langrial, who is also part of the Buzdar cabinet, confirmed to reporters Mr Khattak’s contacts with them. “Our group is ready to hold talks with the government, but only under a minus-Buzdar formula. In fact, things have gone beyond minus-Buzdar,” he asserted and dismissed reports that the group had floated the name of Aleem Khan.
“Our leader is Mr Tareen and he is mandated to take a decision about a name for the Punjab chief minister or negotiating with the opposition.”
In an apparent reference to the opposition parties’ contact with the group, Mr Langrial said: “Other political parties have contacted us and we are updating Mr Tareen in this respect.”
On the other hand, a PML-Q spokesperson told Dawn that Mr Khattak had contacted the party and asked for its opinion if Aleem Khan was considered for the Punjab chief minister.
“The PML-Q categorically refused to support Aleem,” he stated.
“The party leadership told the minister it can consider other names, but not Aleem’s,” he added.
Reportedly, CM Buzdar had in his meeting with PM Khan proposed the name of Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi as the chief minister, observing that the PML-Q leader would be able to handle the situation in the province for being a seasoned politician and owing to his political clout.
“The PTI leadership is facing a double jeopardy. If it agrees on Aleem for the Punjab chief ministership, the Chaudhrys will get annoyed and if it values its ally’s opinion, the Tareen group may part ways with Imran Khan,” the source said.
Buzdar marshals support
Meanwhile, Mr Buzdar also met with some of the MNAs who had met the prime minister earlier in the day. Those who called on the CM at Punjab House in Islamabad included PTI chief whip Malik Amir Dogar, Makhdoom Syed Samiul Hassan Gillani, Dr Muhammad Afzal Dhandla and Ghulam Bibi Bharwana.
According to a press statement issued by the chief minister’s office, the MNAs reposed their trust in PM Khan and Mr Buzdar. Expressing his views, Buzdar vowed to counter the opposition’s no-trust motion. “We are all united and will remain so in the future as well,” he claimed.
He claimed the opposition lacked the number of members for making the no-trust motion successful. Prime Minister Imran Khan enjoyed and will continue to enjoy the support of all assembly members, he maintained.
About the meeting with the PM, Punjab government spokesperson Hasaan Khawar said CM Buzdar neither spoke against Mr Aleem nor in favour of Mr Elahi in reference to media reports about the choice for the office of chief minister.
Although the PML-Q has maintained its support for Imran Khan, PML-N leaders are of the opinion that the Chaudhrys will have to eventually join the opposition owing to the changing political landscape. “We are in touch with the PML-Q leadership and trying to convince them to join the opposition for the sake of the people as well as their own politics, ‘’ a senior PML-N leader told Dawn. He claimed that not only the Chaudhrys, but the MQM and BAP would also join the opposition’s move to oust PM Khan.
Amir Waseem also contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2022