LAHORE: Emboldened by the prime minister’s reassurances, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar sprung into action and held a flurry of meetings with provincial ministers and possible dissidents to ensure they will stay loyal to the party in the current political environment.
Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to visit Lahore again on Thursday (today) in a pre-emptive exercise to minimise the fallout expected from the party dissidents and ally, the PML-Q.
On Wednesday, Mr Buzdar held back-to-back meetings in his office with provincial ministers and lawmakers, including those also present at the lunch hosted on Monday by former Punjab minister Aleem Khan ahead of his meeting with the Jehangir Tareen group.
The ministers and MPAs, however, claimed they had attended the lunch because Aleem had neither quit the party nor announced any anti-PTI agenda till then. A provincial minister confided to Dawn they won’t meet Aleem now.
Disgruntled MPA now says ‘minus-Buzdar’ merely an individual’s demand
The Punjab government faced yet another shock after its ally, the PML-Q, too met members of the Tareen group and reportedly conveyed a message to the PTI leadership that it could re-asses its support if the ruling party splits up.
A six-member delegation of the Tareen group, led by provincial minister Nauman Langrial, discussed with Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi a possible no-confidence motion in the house and sought guidance whether the disgruntled members could submit such a motion or not. The group also sought the PML-Q’s support to remove the Buzdar government.
Mr Elahi did not commit anything and agreed to stay in touch with the dissidents.
Reportedly, most members of the Tareen group also voiced their resentment over the possibility of nominating Aleem for the post of chief minister.
On the other hand, disgruntled PTI MPA Khurram Leghari, who was among those who met Aleem on Monday, took a U-turn and claimed the minus-Buzdar demand was an individual stance (of provincial minister Langrial) and not a decision of the entire Tareen group. “We cannot leave Usman Buzdar alone in the current political scenario,” he said.
Separately, Punjab Energy Minister Dr Akhtar Malik, who had also attended Aleem’s luncheon on Monday, released a video message after meeting the CM on Wednesday. He said: “We were elected on a PTI ticket and are morally and legally bound to follow the party line.”
When contacted, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said the ministers held a detailed meeting with Mr Buzdar and discussed the political situation in the province as well as at the Centre. She said the Punjab government had contacted several MNAs, who were suspected to dissent, and sought their pledge for supporting the party in the National Assembly.
Commenting on an informal split in the party, she said: “We have unquestioningly accepted the chief minister and worked in his close coordination. The party is all together and any difference of opinion does not mean voting against the party.”
During his meetings with provincial ministers and MPAs that were under way till the filing of this report, Buzdar is said to have conveyed to them the PM’s message that the CM is staying in office.
“Those indulging in politics of disunity will gain nothing,” he asserted, adding that such meetings would continue. The ministers and MPAs expressed their full trust in Mr Buzdar’s leadership.
On the other hand, some ministers, including Samsam Bukhari and Asif Nakai, visited the disgruntled Langrial. Although Bukhari did not meet the CM, he denied committing any support to the Tareen group.
Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, who has not yet been considered for handling the political upheaval in the province, advised the PTI leadership to hold talks with Tareen and Aleem. “It is the responsibility of the leadership to keep the party united,” he remarked.
Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2022