LAHORE: With the process for the no-confidence motion set to kick off on Monday afternoon, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government made last-ditch efforts on Saturday to convince their allies, the PML-Q and MQM-P, to support the prime minister.
“A government team led by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has given his words that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar will be asked to resign in a day or two, and that Chaudhry Parvez Elahi is the PTI government’s preferred choice for his replacement,” a PML-Q senior leader told Dawn seeking anonymity.
After some news channels quoted sources as saying that Mr Buzdar had prepared a summary to dissolve the Punjab Assembly, a PML-Q leader claimed: “The Punjab Assembly will not be dissolved, but a change of leader of the house is on the cards.”
“PML-Q secretary general and federal minister Tariq Bashir Cheema told the government team to make a formal announcement regarding Mr Elahi as the candidate for the CM before going for voting on the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly,” a leader of the allied party told Dawn.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that PM Khan took CM Buzdar along with him to Islamabad after the public meeting in Kamalia, instead of the former returning to Lahore.
The PTI government team, also comprising Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, flew to Lahore from Islamabad and met leaders of the allied party, Parvez Elahi, federal ministers Cheema and Chaudhry Moonis Elahi. PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was in Islamabad.
In the meeting, sources say, the Chaudhrys reiterated their long-standing concerns with the ruling party as well as their demands, including the Punjab chief ministership. “As the government team could not make a commitment in black and white, the Chaudhrys stressed that their meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan is the need of the hour,” a senior PML-Q leader told Dawn.
The government side conveyed the prime minister’s message to the allied party and discussed issues of mutual interest, including the political situation, in a cordial atmosphere.
Mr Cheema apprised the PTI ministers about the problems his party had been facing for the last three and a half years, and openly discussed their solutions. He told the delegation that the PML-Q supported the government during the tough times, but the graciousness was never reciprocated.
“We did not see the ruling party’s support for the PML-Q in the constituencies of Salik Hussain as well as my own. The PML-Q stuck with the government for over three years, but the PTI never took it into confidence during consultations on larger issues in the country and Punjab. Despite being coalition partners, the PML-Q faced opposition-like treatment from the PTI government,” the minister said.
A PML-Q spokesman said the government team assured them that they would inform Prime Minister Khan about the entire situation. The PML-Q leadership would take its president Chaudhry Shujaat into confidence about the meeting and the next meeting would be held in Islamabad soon.
Sources said FM Qureshi assured the PML-Q leadership that Mr Elahi would be the PTI candidate for the Punjab CM’s slot, as many factions had been created within the ruling party and there would be no consensus candidate.
They further said that because of the many divisions within the ruling party, it will be next to impossible to get Mr Elahi elected as the chief minister.
It was also learnt that the government team was on a mission to meet the allied parties to ensure it had the numbers against the opposition to win the no-trust move.
“The government team asked Mr Elahi how it should convince other allied parties, and were suggested that they not be given any lollipop, but rather all the commitments must be fulfilled regarding local problems as well as extending ministries to them,” a PML-Q leader told Dawn.
In Islamabad, the government team headed by Foreign Minister Qureshi held another round of talks with the representatives of the ally Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) at the Parliament Lodges and discussed the prevailing political situation in the country with specific reference to the upcoming vote on the no-confidence resolution.
In a statement, Mr Qureshi claimed that talks with the MQM remained “encouraging” and the two sides had agreed to continue meetings.
The government team comprised Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and federal ministers Asad Umar, Pervez Khattak and Ali Zaidi.
The MQM was represented by Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Aminul Haq, Amir Khan, Waseem Akhtar, Khawaja Izharul Hassan, Javed Hanif and Sadiq Iftikhar.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2022