LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Asking President Dr Arif Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly, former information minister Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday demanded Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz step down, claiming both have lost the majority.
Separately, in a statement issued by the party, the PTI leader said there were rumours the government was considering holding early elections, but any caretaker set-up announced without seeking the PTI’s nod will not be credible.
Talking to the media at a private hotel in Lahore, where his party had arranged an event in the run-up to a visit by PTI chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday to address the Lahore Bar Council, Mr Chaudhry said if the president feels the leader of the house has lost majority in the National Assembly, he can dissolve it.
“The Supreme Court took a big step to check horse-trading. It is a decision, not an opinion,” he claimed. The court has accepted the PTI’s point of view and declared the “vote of turncoats cannot be counted”, he added.
In the election for the Punjab chief minister, Hamza Shehbaz emerged victorious with 197 votes, out of which 27 were polled by PTI dissidents. If these are excluded, the incumbent CM would be left with 172 votes – 14 short of the 186 required to become or remain a chief minister.
Now, assemblies are losing strength one by one, and the country is heading towards elections, Fawad claimed. Elections can be held on old delimitations, but only the chief election commissioner is creating hurdles in the way, he alleged.
When asked if the PTI would contest the election for Punjab chief minister, once Hamza loses office in light of the SC opinion, he refused, saying the PTI now prefers fresh elections.
Earlier, addressing the Professionals’ Forum, former federal minister Asad Umar said the nation stood with former premier Imran Khan. People have been saying the US is powerful and cannot be opposed. “Only our leader Imran Khan had the guts to say ‘absolutely not’ to the Americans when they said they may need our bases after withdrawal from Afghanistan. We are not a slave nation,” Asad declared.
Unanimous caretaker set-up
Meanwhile, in a statement issued from Islamabad on Tuesday, the PTI while welcoming the decision of the Supreme Court, which has declared that votes of dissident lawmakers could not be counted, has said now there was no excuse for the PML-N to stay in government in Punjab.
“The PTI is the largest political party in Pakistan so any move to announce a caretaker set-up, without getting the consent of the PTI will have no credibility. Even the election commission cannot hold such elections as an election has to be credible,” Fawad Chaudhry said.
While PTI secretary general Asad Umar announced that over half a million people had signed up for the party’s membership in just six days.
“Alhamdulillah in only six days since launch of @PTIofficial membership thru pti raabta app, more than half a million people have become members,” he tweeted.
He also claimed that no security was provided to former prime minister despite the interior minister acknowledging the need for it.
“Interior ministry says protection for @ImranKhanPTI needs enhancement but takes no steps to provide protection to former PM. Now interior minister issuing incendiary statement against Imran Khan. Govt fully responsible if anything untoward happens. Nation will not forgive,” Mr Umar further tweeted.
Meanwhile, Malik Saqib Mehmood, who belongs to south Punjab and the constituency of dissident PTI MNA Ahmed Hussain Deharr, on Tuesday met PTI chairman Imran Khan and joined the party along with his associates.
Reaction to SC opinion
While reacting to the Supreme Court’s verdict, Mr Umar said there was no excuse for the PML-N to continue with the Punjab government.
Former state minister Farrukh Habib also hailed the apex court’s decision as historic.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2022