• Shehbaz, Shujaat, Zardari hold separate talks
• Elahi’s resignation to render his dissolution summary ineffective also discussed
LAHORE: The city remained a hub of political activities on Sunday aimed at preventing the dissolution of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, former president Asif Zardari and ex-premier Chaudhry Shujaat met each other separately to find a way out of the ‘quagmire’ caused by PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s announcement that the two legislatures would be dissolved on Friday.
PM Shehbaz visited Chaudhry Shujaat earlier in the day and reportedly discussed with him the option of re-launching efforts to woo back Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi by offering him to continue as CM with the help of PML-N and PPP’s support after ditching PTI, Mr Elahi’s partner in the coalition ruling Punjab.
In case the ‘carrot’ policy fails, then Mr Shujaat should use his influence on his party’s (PML-Q) 10 MPAs to bar them from voting for Mr Elahi if and when the governor asks him to take a vote of confidence, sources privy to the development say.
Mr Zardari then called on PM Shehbaz at the latter’s Model Town residence and discussed the outcome of his meeting with Chaudhry Shujaat.
Both the sides also discussed various options available with them for preventing the Punjab Assembly’s dissolution. Mr Zardari then left to meet the PML-Q president with some more options at his hand.
A senior PML-N leader told Dawn that Mr Zardari carried a new option for Mr Elahi – resign as chief minister to make ineffective and infructuous the signed summary he had handed over to Imran Khan for the dissolution of the assembly.
This ‘surprise’ step would also ensure that the assembly would remain intact at least until a new chief minister is elected, he said, adding the coveted office may again be offered to Mr Elahi or a person of his choice.
Responding to a question whether PML-N would prefer to move first a no-confidence motion against Mr Elahi or tell the governor to ask the chief minister take a vote of confidence in case the seasoned politician from Gujrat did not accept the ‘carrot’, he said both the options would be used simultaneously.
He explained that as in the case of vote of confidence the Constitution does not explicitly bar a prime minister or chief minister from dissolving the house, they would also file a no-trust motion against the CM (as well as the speaker and deputy speaker) to strip him of the power of dissolving the assembly.
In a hint that internal rifts in the family of Chaudhrys of Gujrat are subsiding, Parvez Elahi revealed in a TV interview that his relations with Chaudhry Shujaat were improving and that they both had offered the last Friday prayers together.
Federal Minister Salik Hussain, who is son of Chaudhry Shujaat, said that PDM may accept Parvez Elahi into its fold if the latter ‘reforms’ himself.
In a statement, he urged the chief minister not to side with ‘the ungrateful’.
Mr Salik saw the opportunity to invite Mr Elahi after the latter launched a tirade against PTI chief, telling him to stop criticising the former army chief since he was a benefactor not of the PML-Q alone but the PTI and Imran Khan in particular.
Commenting on the emerging friction between the PMLQ and PTI, he said: “This was inevitable. If Parvez Elahi will rectify his actions, he can be accepted by the PDM.”
He said, “Gen Bajwa was our benefactor too besides Parvez Elahi and Imran Khan”.
Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2022