Reports of allies switching sides send govt into frenzy

Published March 24, 2022
LAHORE: Banners of the opposition and ruling parties have been placed near the Punjab Assembly. Both sides have invited people to be part of their long marches. — PPI
LAHORE: Banners of the opposition and ruling parties have been placed near the Punjab Assembly. Both sides have invited people to be part of their long marches. — PPI

ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan was informed on Wednesday that the party’s allies have decided to side with the opposition on the no-confidence motion, after which the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) once again geared up its efforts to appease the annoyed coalition partners.

A delegation of PTI leaders met the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) as a last ditch effort to pacify the allied party.

A government source told Dawn that Prime Minister Khan was apprised in the PTI’s Political Committee meeting that their allies had decided to join the opposition camp and vote against him on the no-trust motion. On this, the PM dispatched senior PTI leaders to meet the heads of allied parties and assure them that their reservations would be addressed. He hoped the allies would return to the government and support him in the National Assembly on the voting day.

Read: No confidence — how did Prime Minister Imran Khan end up here?

When contacted, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry claimed the next 48 hours were “quite crucial” when the political ambiguity would be cleared. He hoped that allies will not leave the prime minister’s side in this hour of need.

PM tasks senior leaders with appeasing MQM; Tareen group denies being asked to withdraw demand for CM’s removal

He further said PM Khan had directed the ruling party to stage the “country’s biggest” public meeting at Parade Ground on March 27 as a “show of power” before the vote on the no-confidence motion.

Read: Confident Imran says ‘will have last laugh’

On the occasion, federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, Industries Minister Khusro Bakhtiar and Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak gave separate briefings on the arrangements they had made to bring people to the federal capital for the party’s power show from central Punjab, south Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, respectively.

The prime minister was quoted as saying: “It should be the biggest public meeting in the history of Pakistan,” he added.

On Tuesday, a federal minister, who did not want to be named, had claimed the government was in “real trouble” and it seemed impossible that their disgruntled MNAs would return to the party fold.

Later on Wednesday, a PTI delegation comprising National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, Asad Umar and Pervaiz Khattak met MQM leaders and tried to appease them. Inside sources said the MQM did not offer any assurances to the ruling party, and said “the party has not yet decided which side to choose”.

However, the MQM leaders, including its chief Rauf Siddiqui and Federal Information Technology Minister Syed Aminul Haq, were of the view that the government had not listened to their advice and demands in over three years. Now, the time to address the MQM’s grievances was over, the source said.

The presence of the NA speaker in the meeting was noticed by many after he was widely criticised by the opposition parties for being partial towards the ruling party despite being the custodian of the House.

Meanwhile, the prime minister continued meeting MNAs of the PTI and allied parties. On Wednesday, he met MNAs Aliya Hamza, Saira Bano and Amir Liaquat Hussain.

Speaker attempts to clear position

Later, the speaker tried to clear his position in a tweet, saying: “I as the custodian of the National Assembly of Pakistan will fulfil my constitutional obligations and will proceed in accordance with Article 95 of the Constitution & Rule 37 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007.”

PM praises Covid team

Prime Minister Khan, in a tweet, also congratulated his team for effectively handling the Covid-19 pandemic in a way that led to the country recording the lowest unemployment rate in South Asia.

“I want to congratulate my government for the way we handled the Covid-19 pandemic – better than all the countries in South Asia,” he wrote.

The tweet came in response to a survey by South Asia Index, based on World Bank data, which showed Pakistan outranking other South Asian countries with the lowest unemployment rate.

The survey showed the rate of Pakistan’s unemployed population at 4.3 per cent, as compared to India’s 8pc, Maldives 6.3pc, Bangladesh 5.4pc, Sri Lanka 5.9pc, Bhutan 5pc and Nepal 4.7pc.

Murad Raas to meet Tareen group today

Meanwhile, the Jehangir Khan Tareen group expressed surprise over Punjab School Education Minister Murad Raas’s claims that he had met the disgruntled party members and was trying to convince them to drop their core demand of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s removal.

“The Tareen group core committee members are not in Lahore and it came as a surprise to us to see news reports that a meeting took place with Murad Raas,” committee member Abdul Haye Dasti told Dawn on Wednesday.

Mr Dasti, however, said the core committee had indeed met Murad Raas a few days ago who was now supposed to present a report on whether the group’s concerns had been addressed or not. “Our next meeting with Mr Raas has been scheduled for Friday,” Mr Dasti stated.

The education minister’s spokesman had sent tickers from news channels to media houses, claiming that Mr Raas had met the Tareen group and tried to convince them to withdraw their “minus-Buzdar” demand.

When contacted, a member of the Jehangir Tareen clique claimed Murad Raas was getting jittery and had issued the statement as he was not being facilitated by the chief minister’s office for resolving the group’s concerns.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2022

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