• Withdraws ‘proposal’ to sit with PDM, says suggestion was made in view of national interest
• Says assemblies’ scuttling can be delayed if polls are called by end of March
• Tells PTI lawmakers all set for dissolution of KP, Punjab assemblies
LAHORE: In what appeared to be an attempt to clear the air after his offer for talks to the coalition government on snap polls supposedly backfired, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday insisted his offer was ‘misunderstood’, as he made it in the larger interests of the country.
He then implored “the handlers” of the federal government to realise the country was fast heading towards a default and urged them to act to save the 220 million people from a perpetual loss.
However, Mr Khan while speaking during an interview with Bol News late in the night, gave a new dimension to his stance. The PTI chief said he may delay the dissolution of Punjab and KP assemblies if political players agreed to come to the table and decide that general elections would be called maximum by the end of next March.
Since March will be the month of Ramazan, Mr Khan’s new suggestion implies that PDM government should immediately announce the elections date, dissolve all assemblies and call for general elections. But he said the elections can be held in the fasting month too.
Earlier, while speaking to legislators from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly via video link from his Zaman Park residence, he insisted the PTI was “all set to dissolve the Punjab and KP assemblies this month and take 66 per cent of Pakistan to the polls”.
This, he said, would bring the country to a halt as all political parties, including those in power, would be busy preparing for election campaigns. He added the country was left with no option but to go for early elections to ensure political stability, but claimed the ruling coalition was shying away from polls for fear of losing to his party.
On the other hand, apparently retracting the offer for talks to the government he made on Friday, the PTI chief reiterated his longstanding stance that he would not talk to the “thieves and dacoits”, hinting that his message was for the powers that be.
“I am asking you (the PDM government) to announce elections for the sake of the country, because PTI is not worried, even if polls are held in October next year,” he stated, and asked the KP legislators to begin preparations for election campaigns in their respective constituencies.
Lambasting the federal government for lacking a roadmap to save the sinking economy, the ex- premier said the PML-N tested its two ‘experienced’ finance ministers — Miftah Ismail and Ishaq Dar – but they were both busy accusing each other of pushing the country towards a default.
“A vote of confidence can never be successful without the support of the establishment,” Mr Khan said, and repeated his allegations that the PML-N and PPP leaders had stashed their wealth and properties abroad and would fly out as soon as the country faced any disaster. The PDM leaders, he claimed, were amending laws and getting their corruption cases closed. “They will also try to get me disqualified and knock out other PTI parliamentarians through cases to ensure their victory in elections,” he feared.
Elahi, Moonis meet PA speaker
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and his son, PML-Q senior leader Moonis Elahi, met Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan at the chief minister’s office and discussed matters pertaining to the rules of Punjab Assembly, legal matters and technical aspects of constitutional provisions.
Mr Elahi said he was waiting for a signal from the PTI chief to dissolve the assembly, stressing he would continue standing with Mr Khan through thick and thin.
The meeting resolved to counter any unconstitutional ploys of the opposition parties. The chief minister maintained the opposition did not have the support of enough MPAs to undertake any ‘misadventure’, adding the narrative of imposing governor’s rule and filing a no-trust motion would ultimately prove to be hollow claims.
In his interview to Bol News, Mr Khan rejected outright any idea to plan for elections after the next fiscal budget. “We can only observe restraint in dissolving the two provincial assemblies, if the election date will not go beyond March next,” he said. “I will wait for four to five more days for the government response to this offer, otherwise will dissolve and take 66 per cent of Pakistan to elections.
It will be unwise to let elections happen in 66pc of Pakistan and then again go for the general election in the rest of the country, he said.
Answering a question, Mr Khan said he committed a big mistake by granting extension to Gen Bajwa.
He said he wanted to see a strong army institution. In reply to a question, he said a new military set-up had emerged and he wanted to give some time to get themselves settled.
Answering a question about PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi’s claim that Gen Bajwa had asked him to support the PTI, he explained: “Moonis was asked to support Imran Khan, while the other one [Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain] had been asked to go to PML-N. Gen Bajwa was playing a double game and I could later identify that even PTI’s different men were being given different messages.”
Umer Farooq in Peshawar also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2022