• Atta Tarrar says he doesn’t expect PTI, PML-Q to quit assemblies
• PPP leader claims ‘disgruntled’ PTI lawmakers may leave the party in days to come

LAHORE: The expected arrival of Pakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Ali Zardari in the Punjab capital early next week is generating considerable debate in political circles that the PML-N-led coalition gov­ernment in the Centre is considering making a move in Punjab, especially after Pakis­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief’s announcement that his party may soon ‘quit’ all assemblies.

“The PTI has become jittery after learning that Mr Zardari is coming to Lahore. The PPP lea­der is a kingmaker. The Pun­jab government can be sent packing with his one gesture,” PPP parliamentary leader in the Punjab Assembly Hasan Murtaza claimed here on Saturday.

Mr Zardari’s expected arri­val in Lahore is being seen in the context of his ‘art’ of political manoeuvering and making the impossible possible, which he proved in July during the re-election of the Punjab chief minister. The former president had managed to take on board PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to ditch his own cousin Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and direct his party’s 10 MPAs in the Punjab legislature not to vote for Mr Elahi in the CM’s election for the benefit of Hamza Shehbaz. Shujaat’s son Salik Hussain is a federal minister in Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet.

Besides, Mr Zardari was also known to have played a ‘key role’ in causing defections within the PTI in April and convincing a good number of its MNAs to switch sides to make sure the no-confidence motion against the then premier Imran Khan succeeded. The coalition later made PTI dissident and former PPP jiyala Raja Riaz the opposition leader in the National Assembly apparently on the recommendation of Mr Zardari.

Acting president of the PPP Punjab, Rana Farooq Saeed, told Dawn that the PTI MPAs in Punjab who had been promised ministries were not happy with the leadership. “Who knows, such disgruntled lawmakers may say goodbye to Imran Khan in the coming days. Mr Zardari may pull up a surprise for his political opponents in this regard,” he remarked.

The PPP leader further said Mr Zardari would also evolve strategies to strengthen the party in Punjab. “I have proposed that the PPP contest the next general elections independently, which will benefit the party,” he said, adding he had forwarded a list of potential candidates to the leadership whom the party should extend financial support so they could actively start canvassing in their constituencies well before the polls.

Commenting on Mr Khan’s announcement that his party’s lawmakers would resign from all provincial assemblies, Mr Saeed said: “Time will tell whether all of the PTI MPAs in Punjab will agree to this.”

Recently, PML-N leaders Rana Mashhood, Attaullah Tarar and Malik Ahmad Khan had claimed a ‘plan’ had been devised to topple the PTI-PML-Q government in Punjab.

Talking to Dawn, PM’s Special Assistant Attaullah Tarar said the PML-N-led coalition had even held a meeting on efforts to oust the Punjab government. “We are going to sit in Punjab and establish contacts with [PTI and PML-Q] lawmakers in the province. Soon, the federal coalition will succeed in forming its government here as well.”

“Mr Khan’s announcement is a face-saving tactic to end his so-called long march. The PTI cannot dissolve the Punjab Assembly, as PML-Q’s Chaudhry Parvez Elahi is the chief minister. Besides, a good number of PTI MPAs in Punjab are not happy with their leadership and they will never resign on Khan’s order,” PML-N Punjab Information Secretary Azma Bokhari told Dawn on Saturday.

She stressed that the ruling coalition in Islamabad was all set to target Punjab, and in the coming days, signs of dislodging ofthe provincial government would become visible.

When asked if Mr Zardari was set to camp in Lahore in this regard, Ms Bokhari said: “The coalition has decided to launch efforts to topple the PTI-PML-Q government in Punjab.”

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2022

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