LAHORE: Interim Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a meeting with his party’s nominee for Punjab chief minister, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, discussed a strategy for the upcoming provincial assembly session, and also talked about options of suspending opposition members and dissolving the assembly.
Also on Tuesday, Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari postponed the session of the Punjab Assembly, scheduled for Wednesday (today), to April 16.
The deputy speaker claimed the session was postponed to complete repair and maintenance work in the assembly hall.
Then, in a late-night development, some TV channels reported that the deputy speaker had superseded his earlier order and summoned the PA to meet at 7:30pm today (Wednesday).
Confusion over whether PA session to be held today or April 16
A Punjab Assembly spokesperson, in a clarification issued late-night, had denied that the session had been recalled on Wednesday.
PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi also told Dawn that the notice circulating on media was ‘fake’ as it did not have a diary number and was written on a plain piece of paper. He asserted that the session would be held on April 16 as notified earlier in the day.
The interim prime minister chaired a meeting, which was attended by Governor Omer Sarfraz Cheema, outgoing chief minister Usman Buzdar, Mr Elahi, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Fawad Chaudhry. The meeting discussed a strategy for the chief minister’s election, which had become inevitable as the outgoing leader of the House could not dissolve the Punjab Assembly.
Mr Elahi briefed the meeting on the assembly’s April 3 session. Mr Buzdar and Punjab PTI president Shafqat Mahmood explained the success in convincing party MPAs who had joined hands with the opposition.
When the prime minister asked about the number of MPAs likely to vote for the party candidate, it was claimed that Mr Elahi had the support of 189 members, including those from the opposition.
Mr Khan asked whether there was a need to prorogue the session, and if not then what were the options available. Mr Elahi responded that the opposition members had vandalised the assembly hall on April 3, and suggested that some 15 opposition lawmakers could be suspended after which they would not be able to vote in the House.
It is learnt that PM Khan also met Mr Elahi and his son Moonis Elahi separately, and asked them whether they needed his help for the CM’s election. Mr Elahi reportedly said he would ask for it when required.
Meanwhile, the PTI has issued notices to its MPAs asking them to vote for the party’s candidate, Mr Elahi, as the chief minister. “Those who will vote against the party candidate or abstain from voting will be tried under Article 63A of the Constitution,” says the order issued by PTI secretary general Asad Umar.
The PTI was also contemplating filing references against those MPs who were meeting opposition leaders or sat in the opposition benches in the Punjab Assembly during the last session.
Meanwhile, making it clear that every politician opposed to him was a traitor, interim Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said the government cannot be allowed to become a commodity worth Rs15 to Rs20 billion.
“If India spares this kind of money, buys loyalties of parliamentarians here, can it be allowed to effect regime change in Pakistan?”
Addressing PTI workers at an Iftar at Governor House here, Mr Khan kept invoking nationalist passion: “The US wanted a regime change in Pakistan and local traitors joined it for money. Some others became a tool out of sheer ignorance. They all are out to get me. But it would not happen.
“The patriotic and self-respecting Pakistanis would not allow this to happen. All these conspirators will meet their nemesis shortly. Independent-minded and dignified people of Pakistan will not only reject them, but permanently bury them politically in the next elections, which are now only three months away.”
Accepting responsibility for the mess his party finds itself in, Imran Khan regretted: “We committed our share of mistakes. Awarding tickets to so-called electables at the cost of sincere political workers was one such blunder.
We are paying the price. In the future, however, only party ideologues will be awarded tickets and the party will surely jump back to power at their strength. Prepare for the polls now,” he told his workers and promised to be careful with nominations during the next elections.
He also directed the party workers to begin “daily peaceful protests. I am heading back to Islamabad shortly to address one such protest rally there, where the process has already started”.
He directed Shafqat Mahmood to ensure daily peaceful protests were held in Lahore so “the traitors not only feel the heat of the party’s popularity, but also realise that their actions have electoral consequences as well”.
Taking aim at the combined opposition and its policy, Mr Khan said only those whose wealth was stashed abroad could advocate clichés such as “beggars can’t be choosers” as policy options.
But he warned that those who had allegedly sold their souls would be taught a lesson a few months down the line. Hinting at the reports that the opposition had lodged some PTI ‘turncoats’ at a local hotel, Mr Khan warned that “we know why and for what purpose they have been kept there. They should know what awaits them in the next elections”.
Earlier, addressing around 139 parliamentarians of the PTI and PML-Q, the interim prime minister said his claims of foreign interference for a regime change were “verified by the National Security Committee, which ordered a demarche in response – putting a stamp on its authenticity”.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2022