• PML-Q terms PM’s Dir speech ‘shameful’
• Rashid accuses Chaudhrys of ‘blackmailing’ govt
• Imran holds back-to-back meetings with party MNAs

ISLAMABAD: The delay in decision-making by the four smaller but key coalition partners of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on the issue of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan is not only prolonging the prevailing political uncertainty in the country, but it has also started to unnerve the government.

And it all became evident on Saturday when Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed alleged that the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) was “blackmailing” the government in return for support during the opposition’s no-trust move.

The interior minister’s remarks invited the ire of the PML-Q leadership, and he received a quick and a befitting response from Federal Minister for Water Resources Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, who in a tweet alleged that Mr Ahmed “used to take money from the party’s elders during his student life”.

The remarks from the interior minister during a news conference in Quetta came on the same day as PML-Q leaders, after holding a consultative meeting in Islamabad on Saturday, announced that they would meet again on Sunday (today) to finalise the party’s stance and strategy.

The exchange of such acrimonious remarks from both the sides clearly indicates that the gulf between the ruling PTI and the PML-Q has started widening. And this fact came to the surface when the PML-Q also criticised Prime Minister Khan’s speech that he delivered in Lower Dir on Friday.

“We condemn the prime minister’s speech. We consider it shameful and below the status of the prime minister,” said PML-Q senator Kamil Ali Agha.

The PML-Q, an important ally of the PTI at the Centre and Punjab, had reportedly asked the prime minister to announce Chaudhry Parvez Elahi as the replacement of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar before calling the National Assembly session to take up the opposition’s no-trust motion.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Agha said the party leaders had a detailed meeting on Saturday in light of the leadership’s meeting with the government and the opposition people and that they would meet again on Sunday.

When asked about the reason for the delay in decision-making, which was adding to political uncertainty in the country, Mr Agha said his party leadership always took decisions after consultations and deliberations. He, however, expressed the hope that the PML-Q might come out with a final decision on Sunday.

In response to another question, Mr Agha categorically refuted reports in some media circles that Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had asked them to merge the party into the PTI to get the chief minister’s office of Punjab.

The PML-Q senator then ridiculed the information minister by stating that they did not consider him an appropriate person to talk such serious political matters. He said the information minister had met Chaudhry Pervez Elahi on Friday only on one-point agenda to discuss the issue of the controversial ordinance which the government had promulgated to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (Peca).

Mr Agha also hit out at the interior minister for targeting the PML-Q and said it seemed that Mr Ahmed was in a fear of losing the ministry. The PML-Q senator said he knew Mr Ahmed personally and he had always got the ministries in the past by “pleading” and through sycophancy.

The PML-Q has now acquired a central role in the ongoing political drama despite having only five MNAs. It seems that the three other allies — the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) — are waiting for each other to make a decision.

Given the party position in the National Assembly, it is clear that if any two of the four allies make a decision to quit the ruling coalition, Prime Minister Imran Khan will lose the majority in the 342-mnember house. As many as 17 MNAs belong to these four coalition parties or alliances and the ruling party had the support of 179 MNAs at present.

Earlier, talking to reporters in Quetta where he had gone to inaugurate a Nadra mega centre, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that he was standing with Prime Minister Imran Khan like a rock but not responsible for the other allies “as even those having five members are blackmailing for the chief ministership in Punjab”.

When asked to whom he was calling a blackmailer, he said, “I’m talking about Punjab politics.”

He claimed that BAP, another coalition partner at the Centre and ruling party in the province, was openly with Imran Khan.

He said the government had decided to deploy Rangers and Frontier Corps personnel for security of the Parliament House and Parliament Lodges seven days prior to the voting on no-confidence motion so that there would remain no complaint of law and order.

Under Article 245 of the Constitution, he said, the government could summon the army as well, nevertheless the situation had not reached that point yet.

Meetings with MNAs

Despite the weekend, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday held separate meetings with groups of party MNAs.

During the meetings, according to the state-run APP news agency, the prime minister said the economy of Pakistan was on a path of sustainable growth due to successful policies of the government.

Mr Khan directed that the elected representatives should strengthen their contact with the people and create awareness among them about the different government schemes for the socioeconomic progress.

The prime minister also directed that people should be informed that the government was aware of their problems and was taking all possible steps to save them from the negative effects of imported inflation due to the historic rise in the commodity prices in the international markets.

Those who attended the meetings included PTI MNAs from Peshawar, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Chakwal.

Fawad’s tweet

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Saturday that the ill-planned no-confidence motion of the opposition caused bitterness in politics. In a tweet, he said, democracy was not a system of extreme divisions, it was based on a consensus on certain things.

“I don’t think (politics) should be so divisive that it should become difficult to talk (to each other). It is not difficult to fight but reconciliation is difficult later,” he said.

Responding to the minister’s tweet, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said negotiations and dialogue could only be held with seasoned politicians, and “not with thugs and hooligans like Imran Khan, who uses abusive language for political opponents and threatens their lives”.

She said it was Imran Khan who had turned political opposition into a bloodthirsty animosity and created divisions, chaos and disorder in society.

“Does Fawad Chaudhry take the people of Pakistan as fools, or is he fooling himself by saying that PTI or Imran does not want polarisation in the society? Imran is the reason for the divisions in society, the dirt and filth in Pakistani politics,” she said.

Saleem Shahid from Quetta also contributed to the report

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2022

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