LAHORE: Members of the Jahangir Tareen group ‘pulled a fast one’ on the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) when, after late-night negotiations with the Elahis, they chose to throw their weight behind the opposition camp.
This prompted hectic activity in the Parvez Elahi-led ruling bloc, and the incumbent Punjab Assembly speaker announced that voting for the chief minister slot will be held today (Sunday).
During Saturday’s session, which began later than the designated time, Mr Elahi gave the election schedule. Mr Elahi is the government-backed candidate, while the opposition parties have fielded Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz as his opponent.
PML-Q leaders, led by the speaker’s son, Moonis Elahi, had remained in meetings with members of the Jahangir Tareen group until around 2.30am on Saturday to iron out the terms of their offer.
Punjab Assembly to elect new CM today; both sides scramble to ensure their numbers are complete
However, a tweet by former finance minister Ishaq Dar in the wee hours changed the whole scenario. “Had fruitful final round of discussion with Jahangir Khan Tareen and it was agreed that the Tareen group would support joint opposition’s candidate Hamza Shehbaz Sharif for the slot of chief minister,” Mr Dar tweeted.
Talking to Dawn, Moonis Elahi said former Punjab minister Nauman Langrial had committed late in the night that 12 out of 17 members gave their consent to vote for Parvez Elahi. Langrial also committed that he would convince the remaining five members,” said Moonis Elahi while talking to Dawn.
Mr Moonis said he had personally contacted three Tareen group members and won their support, which was later publically announced. The three members — Abdul Hayee Dasti, Rafaqat Ali Gillani and Ameer Mohammad Khan — also met Parvez Elahi at his Punjab Assembly chamber.
While PTI dissident and former senior minister Aleem Khan also showed the strength of nine MPAs to PML-N’s CM candidate Hamza Shehbaz who visited the ex-minister at his office on Saturday, Mr Elahi claimed some of them would express their explicit support for him.
Mr Moonis said the PML-Q leadership was already in contact with many MPAs belonging to the PML-N and hoped that the treasury would show more than the required 186 numbers on the voting day on Sunday (today).
Also, Prime Minister Imran Khan in a tweet asked all PTI lawmakers in Punjab to vote for PML-Q leader Parvez Elahi in the Punjab CM’s election on Sunday. “Any PTI MPA going against party direction, including abstaining from vote, will be disqualified and face strict disciplinary action,” Mr Khan warned.
The ‘decisive factor’
Meanwhile, the Tareen group that claims to have the support of 16 MPAs has announced its support for the joint opposition’s candidate, Hamza Shehbaz, in the CM election.
The group’s support was announced at a joint press conference addressed by Mr Hamza and PTI lawmaker Nauman Langrial on Saturday.
“We have made our decision to support Hamza’s on the direction of Mr Tareen and we hope that he will serve the province,” MPA Langrial said, lashing out at outgoing CM Buzdar for what he said promoting corruption and damaging the PTI.
Giving reasons why the Tareen group had to defect, Mr Langrial said: “We have been practically in the opposition for the last one and a half years despite being in the government. A fake case [in the Federal Investigation Agency] was registered against Tareen and his family and that united us to raise voice against it.” He said an “inept” CM was made to promote corruption as his office was for sale and it was for this reason that eventually “he [Buzdar] had to resign”.
Asked about the details of Tareen group’s deal with the PML-N, MPA Langrial said: “There is no deal behind the group’s decision to support Hamza to elect him chief minister. We have not made any demands regarding seats (in next election) or ministries.”
The group’s support to Hamza has come after the ‘ailing’ leaders Jehangir Tareen and Nawaz Sharif held a meeting in the presence of former finance minister Ishaq Dar in London. The group is keen to have PML-N seats and Tareen wants the PML-N to ‘close cases’ against him instituted by the PTI government against him. Tareen and his son, Ali Tareen, are facing Rs5bn money laundering case registered by the FIA, Lahore.
While the Tareen group claims all its members would vote for Hamza, the PTI-led coalition thinks otherwise. “On Sunday’s voting it will be interesting to see how many of the Tareen group MPAs turn up for the support of Hamza,” a PML-Q leader told Dawn.
He said the PTI coalition’s candidate [for CM] Parvez Elahi would give a surprise to the opposition by not only securing votes from the PTI lawmakers but also from PML-N legislators.
Mr Moonis earlier along with three Tareen group members came to the Punjab Assembly to demonstrate that the group was with the ruling coalition.
Mr Hamza also reached out to Pakistan Peoples Party MPAs who reportedly complained that they were not taken into confidence by the PML-N for nomination of the CM candidate. The PPP has seven MPAs in Punjab. Hamza met them at the PPP provincial secretariat in Model Town and assured them that their ‘demands’ would be met once he would come to power.
Although another ‘angry’ friend of PM Khan, MPA Aleem Khan announced his support for Mr Hamza, the latter visited him on Saturday to make sure that he would vote for him. Hamza also met PTI MPAs Asad Khokhar and Ijaz Masih who pledged their support for the PML-N leader.
Talking to reporters, Mr Hamza said PM Khan should have shown some grace and gone home. “Instead of turning this country into a Naya (new) Pakistan, Imran has buried old Pakistan under his incompetence and corruption,” the PML-N leader said, while vowing to steer the province towards the “path of progress, where his father (Shehbaz Sharif) had left it before the PTI’s tenure”. He said Mr Khan wants to stick to power by trying to create anarchy in the country but he would not succeed.
Also, PML-N Punjab spokesperson Azma Bukhari alleged Mr Elahi was trying to influence the vote.
In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, the PTI has 183 lawmakers, PML-Q 10, PML-N 165, PPP seven, five are independent and one belonging to Rah-i-Haq. A candidate needs 186 votes to become the chief minister.
Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2022