Punjab CM-hopeful Elahi reaches out to Tareen group, PML-N

Published April 1, 2022
Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi meets with the “Chheena group” on Thursday. — Photo courtesy: Twitter
Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi meets with the “Chheena group” on Thursday. — Photo courtesy: Twitter

LAHORE: Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi on Thursday accelerated his efforts in the turbulent political scenario to woo opposition lawmakers for not only his own election as the Punjab chief minister, but also to protect the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government in the province.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has already sought the resignation of incumbent CM Usman Buzdar and sent it to Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar for its acceptance.

Meanwhile, wary of Mr Elahi’s moves to woo its provincial lawmakers, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has directed them all to reach Lahore and report to the party’s parliamentary leader.

Following a meeting with various provincial ministers, including PTI’s Law Minister Basharat Raja and Prosecution Minister Chaudhry Zaheeruddin who are both loyal to him, Elahi tasked them with meeting as many MPAs as possible across the political divide to achieve the magic number of 186 required in the Punjab Assembly to get him elected as the CM.

Opposition party directs all MPAs to reach Lahore, report to parliamentary leader to preempt PML-Q’s overtures

It is learnt that Mr Raja held a meeting with some provincial ministers and prepared a strategy to speak to the disgruntled PTI elements and ensure their support for Mr Elahi. The meeting agreed that the numbers could be achieved, and there was a dire need to persuade the ‘most united’ group of Jahangir Tareen – that comprises 17 MPAs.

“The most important task is not to convince the smaller disgruntled elements within the PTI, but the Jahangir Tareen group, which is currently showing an inclination towards the opposition,” a minister told Dawn on the condition of anonymity.

Mr Elahi, the ruling PTI’s candidate for the chief minister’s slot, is not only trying to get the Tareen group by his side, but is also using his clout to ‘poach’ PML-N MPAs. Mr Raja has been quoted as claiming that a number of the opposition party’s lawmakers were in touch with Mr Elahi – apart from the few who were repeatedly meeting CM Buzdar and also issued show-cause notices by their party.

A minister said the meeting decided that all local issues of the smaller disgruntled groups would be resolved, adding they had earlier also blackmailed the Buzdar government and got development funds for their respective constituencies besides a share from the districts’ package and transfer-postings of their blue-eyed officers.

A disgruntled PTI group, commonly known as the “Chheena group”, did not give a definite assurance to Mr Elahi in a meeting on Thursday, and said they will announce their decision within 24 hours.

Mr Elahi, along with Tariq Bashir Cheema, Basharat Raja, Chaudhry Zaheeruddin and Hafiz Ammar Yasir, met the group at the residence of its leader, Ghazanfar Abbas Chheena. The group includes Amir Inayat Shahani, Ali Raza Khan Khakwani, Ejaz Sultan Bandesha, Muhammad Ahsan Jahangir, Gulraiz Afzal Gondal, Khwaja Dawood Suleimani, Sardar Mohiuddin Khosa, retired Col Ghazanfar Abbas Shah, Taimur Ali Lali, Sardar Shahabuddin Sehar, Faisal Farooq Cheema, Ejaz Khan and Ghulam Ali Asghar Khan Lahry.

Meanwhile, disgruntled PML-N MPA Azhar Abbas Chandio’s son, Naeem Khan, called on Mr Elahi in his Punjab Assembly chamber, and told him Mr Chandio wanted to come to the assembly to meet the speaker, but was unable to due to an illness. He conveyed his father’s message that he would vote for Elahi for the upcoming chief minister’s election.

Separately, other dissident PML-N lawmakers, Niaz Khan and Faisal Niazi, also called on the speaker and assured him of their support.

PML-N to keep an eye on its MPAs

In the wake of Parvez Elahi attempting to lure PML-N lawmakers, the party has directed all its MPAs to reach Lahore.

“We have reports that Mr Elahi has contacted a number of our MPAs. Since he enjoys good relations with both the ruling and opposition lawmakers, he is trying his best to clinch the support of some of them to secure his victory,” a PML-N Punjab lawmaker told Dawn on Thursday.

So, to forestall Mr Elahi’s move, he said, the party leadership has summoned all its MPAs to Lahore, asking them to report to their parliamentary leader. “All the lawmakers will stay in Lahore under the close watch of the party,” he said.

In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, the PML-N has 165 lawmakers, the PTI 183, PML-Q 10, PPP seven, independents five and Rah-i-Haq Party one. Of the 165 PML-N MPAs, four of them have defected and formed a group under Jalil Sharaqpuri, and have already been expelled from the party.

Mr Elahi needs 186 votes to become the chief minister. If the Tareen group doesn’t back him, he will need at least three independents, Rah-i-Haq’s one and over 15 PML-N defectors.

The PML-N, meanwhile, has yet to finalise a candidate to pit against Elahi. “Our complete focus is on the ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Once the no-confidence motion succeeds against him then the opposition leadership will sit together to decide an appropriate candidate for the slot,” a PML-N leader told Dawn. “The joint opposition may announce its candidate next week.”

It has emerged that the opposition is unlikely to field Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz of the PML-N for Punjab’s top office. “As Hamza’s father Shehbaz Sharif is nominated for the prime minister’s office by the joint opposition, it does not want to give two top posts to ‘one party and one family’ in the post-Imran Khan scenario,” the PML-N leader said and added the Tareen and Aleem groups would be asked by the party to present their hopefuls.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2022

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