• Shujaat denies rifts in party, family
• Opposition deliberates on CM candidate choices
• Buzdar to stay on until no-trust vote against PM
LAHORE: Less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced Chaudhry Parvez Elahi as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) nominee for the Punjab chief minister after incumbent Usman Buzdar was asked to resign, the Punjab Assembly speaker sprung into action on Tuesday to muster as much support as possible for his election to the new office.
Mr Elahi got in touch with the disgruntled Jehangir Tareen group to ensure it supported him in the face of the joint opposition’s announcement to field its candidate against him. He also contacted some dissident MNAs of the ruling PTI, persuading them not to support the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“PM Khan will survive the no-confidence motion and the new Punjab chief minister will also belong to the PTI coalition. We will accomplish both targets,” Mr Elahi confidently claimed while talking to a private TV channel on Tuesday, when told the opposition claimed to have the required numbers to oust the premier and also install its chief minister in Punjab.
Justifying his party’s decision to stay with the PTI government, the PML-Q senior leader said: “We found out that the Maryam Nawaz group in the PML-N was against giving anything to the PML-Q, and called us a party with five seats. We were told by our sources that we will stay in power for not more than four months after joining hands with the opposition.”
Moreover, he claimed he had spoken to the Tareen group members and they would support him in the election for the CM. A Punjab lawmaker supporting Mr Tareen, Rafaqat Ali Gilani, met Mr Elahi on Tuesday and assured him of his support. “Federal Minister for Water Resources Moonis Elahi spoke to Mr Tareen’s son Ali to galvanise their group’s support,” Elahi claimed.
PML-Q Senator Kamil Ali Agha also said the party’s priority is to ensure the no-trust move against the prime minister fails. “We are trying our best to ensure the coalition government completes its tenure.”
He further said the PML-Q was trying to persuade MNA Tariq Bashir Cheema not to go against the party line in the vote of no-confidence. However, Mr Cheema said he was still with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, but did not commit to changing his mind about voting against the prime minister.
Rift among Chaudhrys
PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain dismissed reports of a rift within the Chaudhry family and the party over their decision to remain a part of the PTI coalition.
“All political decisions are made in consultation with me and I fully support them being the head of the family. Our family and party are on the same page. Rumours were spread after our decision to stay in the coalition,” he maintained. “Those who want to gain political advantage by spreading rumours about differences in our family will be disappointed.”
Meanwhile, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb refuted Mr Elahi’s statement related to Maryam Nawaz. “Parvez Elahi’s statement about Maryam Nawaz is not true. It was a decision of the joint opposition to make an offer to the PML-Q. Their decision to go against this offer was based purely on their personal reasons and has nothing to do with any statement falsely associated with Maryam Nawaz,” Ms Aurangzeb maintained.
On the other hand, federal Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam denied he had resigned. In a tweet, he said: “News about my resignation and joining PMLN is baseless.”
Opposition’s candidate for CM
After losing hope that the Chaudhrys had no intentions to part with the government, the opposition has started deliberation on finalising its candidate against Mr Elahi.
“We are holding talks with the Tareen group and will finalise our candidate with mutual consultations,” a party leader told Dawn.
PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry reportedly spoke to the Tareen group’s leader Awn Chaudhry on Tuesday to seek their support for both the no-confidence motion and the chief minister’s election. “Fawad told Awn that the prime minister had accepted their group’s demand of replacing Usman Buzdar, and now it should support the premier,” a source said.
The Tareen group, meanwhile, held a meeting in Lahore and discussed support for Mr Elahi. However, it said the final decision would be taken by Mr Tareen, who is currently in London for his treatment.
PML-N MNA Javed Latif told a private TV channel that Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz or disgruntled PTI MPA Aleem Khan might be the joint opposition’s candidate for the provincial chief minister. Interestingly, Aleem could not produce a single lawmaker in his support; his claims of having the backing of 30 to 40 MPAs turned out to be a ‘hoax’.
In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, the PML-N has 165 lawmakers, PPP seven, PML-Q 10 and around 20 belong to the disgruntled Tareen group.
Former president Zardari claimed that Mr Elahi could not become the CM as the opposition had the ‘required numbers’. PML-N Punjab president Rana Sanaullah claimed that on the insistence of Moonis Elahi, the PML-Q leadership had decided to support the PTI coalition. He added the opposition had agreed to the PML-Q’s demand for the chief ministership, yet the party preferred to stay in the coalition.
Meanwhile, the six dissenting PML-N MPAs, led by Jalil Sharaqpuri, announced their support for Mr Elahi.
In a related development, outgoing Punjab CM Usman Buzdar is likely to stay in office till the outcome of the no-confidence motion against the premier.
“Buzdar’s resignation has not yet been accepted by the governor. If it’s accepted, a session is supposed to be called within two to three days and this does not suit the government in the wake of the no-confidence motion against the premier,” a source told Dawn.
Meanwhile, Mr Buzdar said he would leave his office once his resignation is accepted, vowing to stand by the premier for the greater good of the country.
In a series of tweets, he said: “I have never been desirous of any position as ministries and positions do not last long. The interest of the country is dearer to me than my own self.”
He said he would always stand by PM Khan in fulfilling his commitment to the nation for a ‘Naya Pakistan’. “The party and commitment to the nation are always important.”
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2022