ISLAMABAD: There was an air of incredulity as several lawmakers from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), who had been ‘in hiding’ at the Sindh House, revealed themselves on Thursday — proving that opposition claims of having won over members of the ruling coalition were indeed true.
The revelation came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan and some cabinet ministers accused the opposition of indulging in horse-trading ahead of the crucial vote on the no confidence resolution, disclosing that Sindh House in Islamabad had become a centre for buying and purchasing members.
But while government members continued to claim that these dissidents had ‘sold their souls for money’, a number of TV channels that sent their teams into Sindh House to verify the claims were faced with nearly a dozen PTI members, who poured their hearts out and laid bare all their gripes with the ruling party.
Television footage showed PTI MNAs, including some women lawmakers, lounging around the spacious Sindh House, which is located right opposite the official residence of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Nearly a dozen disgruntled lawmakers appear on TV channels, list gripes with ruling party; govt accuses opposition of horse-trading
The building is now under the protection of Special Security Unit (SSU) personnel of the Sindh police.
The MNAs who directly or indirectly criticised the government’s policies included Raja Riaz and Nawab Sher Waseer from Faisalabad, Noor Alam Khan from Peshawar, minority representative Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, Nuzhat Pathan and parliamentary secretary for education Wajiha Qamar.
Raja Riaz, who belongs to the Jahangir Tareen group, reportedly claimed that there were 24 PTI members staying at Sindh House, while Noor Alam Khan put the number of dissidents over 24.
Most of these individuals, who joined the PTI before the 2018 elections, claimed that they were staying at the facility of their own will and they decided to shift here after observing some suspicious activities and receiving threats while lodging at Parliament Lodges.
All of them refuted allegations that they had been offered money to make the opposition’s no trust move a success. The members, however, remained diplomatic when asked if they had decided to vote in support of the opposition’s no-trust resolution against the prime minister, stating that they would vote according to their “conscience.”
MNAs pour their hearts out
Raja Riaz said that if Imran Khan gave them a guarantee that no police action would be taken against the MNAs, irrespective of their decision regarding the vote, he was ready to move to the Parliament Lodges. He said he feared that what happened in the lodges could also happen to them.
Another PTI MNA, Noor Alam Khan, said he was “very disappointed” to learn of the allegations being levelled against them regarding selling their votes.
Mr Khan, who had quit the PPP to join the PTI just before the 2018 elections, has already been issued a show-cause notice by the PTI due to his open criticism on the government on the floor of the National Assembly.
Another PTI MNA, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who had also joined the PTI before the 2018 elections after remaining MNA on the PML-N ticket in the previous assembly, alleged that some PTI men had accused him of “being a traitor to the party” and threatened him. It was after this incident, he said, that he approached Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and asked him for a room at Sindh House.
He also claimed that three federal ministers had left the PTI.
Another PTI dissident, Nawab Sher Waseer, said that it was Imran Khan who had taken “benefits from ATMs” – a term used for the PTI’s financiers. Talking to a TV channel, he said that he had never seen such abusive language in his 40-year political career.
“We are not children,” said Mr Waseer when asked if they had been forcibly brought to Sindh House.
Fears of attack on Sindh House
Justifying the decision to house these dissidents at Sindh House, Pakistan Peoples Party chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari tweeted that the MNAs had been “threatened with violence, arrests and dire consequences if they take part in the no-confidence process.”
“Their lives, liberty and family are under threat. MNAs will take any and all means for their own protection against this fascist regime. The PPP & PDM will do all we can to protect them. We will not show all our cards now... More to come in the coming days. Out of respect of the OIC conference, we don’t want anarchy in Islamabad,” he said, asking the government not to provoke them.
Opposition Leader in the Senate Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani also said his party had not kidnapped any members, nor it was involved in horse-trading.
Claiming that the PTI lawmakers were there for their own protection, he said they were in negotiation with the opposition and the PPP had accepted all the demands put forward by the MQM.
PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and president PML-N Punjab Rana Sanaullah advised Imran Khan to resign from the office after surfacing of the dissidents which proved that he had lost the majority of the members of the National Assembly. Rana Sanaullah was of the view that under the Constitution, there was presently no prime minister and no government in the country.
“This is just the trailer. The real film is yet to be screened. Only the MNAs have come forward for now, three ministers are yet to announce their support for the opposition,” claimed the PML-N leader.
Meanwhile, a number of PPP MNAs said they feared that the government was planning to attack Sindh House, claiming they had information suggesting the Islamabad police and PTI’s Tiger Force were planning an assault.
The PPP parliamentarians said in a statement that if there was any damage to Sindh House’s facilities or any injury to their members, the government would be responsible.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2022