LAHORE: The PML-N senior leadership on Saturday seemed confident of the fact that the military establishment would not intervene to secure a closer date for fresh elections, as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) seemed to be hoping.
“Imran Khan had hurled threats and abuses at the establishment to force it to have early elections for him, but failed. The third force (establishment) has categorically declared that it has become apolitical and it is sticking to its decision. Imran Khan wants the third force’s interference but he will be disappointed,” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan told a press conference after a party meeting in Model Town.
On Saturday, Mr Khan had again reminded the ‘handlers’ (a reference to the establishment) of the PML-N coalition government how snap polls were the need of the hour because of the worsening economic situation of the country, indirectly asking to play its role to push the Shehbaz administration for early elections.
The PML-N is sticking to its stated stance of going to general elections after completing its tenure in August 2023, even if the PTI dissolves the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies. However, the PML-N on Saturday asked Mr Khan to first show seriousness and attach no strings to talks on fresh polls.
Sana says PM to consult coalition partners over Imran’s call for talks; Saad says some allies not ready to sit with PTI
“Imran Khan first needs to offer unconditional talks then we can sit (with the PTI) and consider the proposal of early elections in consultation with our allies,” Sanaullah said, adding that any condition attached to talks was unacceptable.
The interior minister also said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would hold a meeting with coalition leaders in a couple of days to consider Mr Khan’s call for talks.
Coalition not ready to talk to PTI
Railways Minister Saad Rafique disclosed that some coalition parties were strongly opposed to holding talks with the PTI. Without naming the JUI-F and PPP, Rafique said: “Some coalition partners have serious concerns over getting engaged in dialogue with the PTI. They are strongly opposed to giving any face saving to PTI. However, a solution often comes through a dialogue but for this Imran Khan should first stop hurling abuses at the coalition to demonstrate his seriousness.”
The railways minister also asked Mr Khan to stop threatening the federal government. He advised him to change his attitude if he wanted to hold talks with it on any issue.
Addressing Mr Khan, the minister said: “If the PTI dissolves the assemblies in Punjab and KP then whatever the ‘protection’ Imran Khan has in Lahore and Peshawar will evaporate.” He reminded the ousted premier that holding parleys with the government was his issue and not the coalition’s.
In contrast to the party’s position that it would ‘do all’ to save both assemblies (from dissolution), Rafique said: “If Imran Khan wants to dissolve the Punjab and KP assemblies we will not stop him from doing so and we are ready to contest election as we have been doing so since ages. But we want that all assemblies should complete their constitutional term.”
PML-N seeks clarification of Moonis’s claim
Rana Sanaullah said the recent claim by former federal minister of PML-Q Moonis Elahi about former army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa advising his party to side with PTI during the no-confidence vote against Imran Khan in April had “raised doubts” on the institution’s decision to stay apolitical which needed clarification.
“There needs to be clarification on this matter. The institution (of the army) had declared that at some point last year it had decided to remain apolitical. We have complete faith that our military leadership and the institution will remain true to the public commitment the DG ISPR and DG ISI made (in this regard) and it will continue to serve the nation in that manner.”
Mr Moonis in a TV interview said that the [then] army chief (Gen Bajwa) had asked PML-Q to support Imran Khan during the no-trust vote against him. On Saturday, Moonis Elahi reiterated his party’s full support to Mr Khan saying it remained with him (Khan) through thick and thin and those trying to create any misunderstanding (between him and the Chaudhrys) would fail.
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2022