Hours after several dissenting MNAs of the PTI were found staying at Sindh House in a clear indication that they would go against their party in the upcoming no-trust move, a trio of key government ministers held a press conference in Islamabad, saying that Prime Minister Imran Khan could also throw money at opposition lawmakers but would not do so as he does not stand for "politics of blackmailing and bribery".
"Imran Khan does not do politics for himself but for the nation," said Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar as Energy Minister Hammad Azhar and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry sat by his side. "There is no personal interest of his and that is why he neither blackmails anyone nor gets blackmailed."
"He has never done this sort of politics and will never do it in the future. Nobody should have any doubt that PTI will fight till the end but the only difference is that what we will do will be within the ambit of law and Constitution.
"We will not do any thing illegal," he added.
"The entire nation is seeing that they (the opposition) only use the name of democracy under the garb of which they mean to do business."
Energy Minister Hammad Azhar said: "The nation saw that this is the system against which Imran Khan took a stand. This is the system of horse trading, bribery, and auctions to the tune of 200m and 400m.
"We want to make it clear that we will not do any deals and will not disburse ministries to stay in power. We will remain engaged with our allies but there will be no wheeling and dealing."
Earlier in the day, dissenting PTI MNAs Raja Riaz and Malik Nawab Sher Waseer had said that they would vote on the no-confidence motion tabled against Prime Minister Imran Khan in "accordance with their conscience".
Commenting on that remark, Azhar said: "This is not the voice of their conscience but [rather the voice of] money."
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI rejected the politics of "blackmailing and wheeling dealing because of the promise we made to our people".
"This is the business model of Zardari: invest, come in government and take money."
The minister said this was the kind of politics that "we say in the 90s, which was the era of darkness".
"Now it is obligatory upon the people to reject this darkness and rise in support of Imran Khan." he added.
"Our workers are angry. I ask them not to take law into their hands but protest is your right.'"
He said his party has already initiated legal proceedings on the matter, saying that "as per Article 63 (A) (1), if a party leader comes to a conclusion that a member of his party has defected, then he can move a reference for their disqualification."
"After the videos, there is no doubt that they have left the party," added Umar.
When asked about a dissident PTI MNA, Dr Ramesh Kumar, claiming that three federal ministers had left the party, Umar expressed ignorance and said "only Dr Kumar has received this news".
Following that, a reporter pointed out that most of the dissident lawmakers in the PTI were those who had left their parties to join it.
To that, Umar agreed that it was the case broadly. But, he addedd, there were many members "who had joinedthe PTI after leaving other parties and they are still standing strong with Imran Khan".
"So we cannot say that everyone who joins the PTI after leaving a party is wrong," the minister added. On the matter of giving party tickets, party workers should be prioritsied in most cases.
On changes in the federal cabinet, he said the changes could be made if the prime minister believed that it would improve the government's performance.
In this connection, he clarified that the government intended to induct more members from allied parties in the cabinet and had discussed this with the allies.
The process was interrupted after the filing of the no-confidence motion, he said, adding, "I want to make this clear that none of the allies has made any demand [for ministries] yet."
He further said that the opposition was in contact with PTI lawmakers but refused to take any names.
Near the press conference's end, Azhar commented that the "match has entered interesting overs".
"The captain's innings is about to start ... don't draw any conclusions yet," he said.