LAHORE: In the face of the Punjab Assembly speaker’s intention not to comply with the governor’s directive requiring Chief Minister Parvez Elahi to obtain a vote of confidence from the house, the interior minister has claimed if the order isn’t followed through the governor may notify the CM ceasing to hold office.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) continued its consultations on the future of the provincial legislature with PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari calling on PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat for the second time since Sunday.
After a meeting at the Governor House here, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has warned if Elahi did not obtain a vote of confidence on Wednesday (today), he would cease to be the chief executive of the province.
“The Punjab Assembly speaker’s stance that the assembly is in session, so the CM cannot be asked to obtain a vote of confidence is wrong. If Mr Elahi fails to do so, he will cease to be the CM,” he maintained.
Zardari, Shujaat discuss candidate for CM’s office post no-trust vote
The meeting was also attended by Governor Baligur Rehman, federal ministers Tariq Bashir Cheema and Saad Rafique, and special assistants to the premier Aun Chaudhry and Malik Ahmad Khan. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also attended the meeting via a video link from Islamabad and discussed the party’s strategy to ‘save’ the assembly.
Mr Sanaullah said the governor would issue an order barring the chief minister from holding the office in case he did not get a vote of confidence by Wednesday afternoon. He further said Mr Elahi had claimed he and 99 per cent of the MPAs did not want dissolution of the PA on the ‘wish’ of one person (Imran Khan).
“Parvez Elahi will have to explain that if he is not in favour of dissolution of the assembly then why he is doing so. [Imran Khan] wants to trigger crises in Punjab. The nation and the institutions agree that this man should be stopped from committing the senseless act,” he said.
The minister, who is also the PML-N’s Punjab president, said the governor would call for election of the chief minister in case Mr Elahi failed to secure a vote of confidence. To a question about the PDM’s contacts with the PML-Q regarding about nominating a candidate of the alliance for the CM’s office, he said: “All allies are in touch in this regard,” he added.
When asked whether the federal coalition tried to woo Elahi, PM’s Special Assistant Malik Ahmad Khan said: “Parvez Elahi has declared that he is with the PTI.”
When asked if Mr Khan’s name was being floated as the CM candidate of the coalition, he said his “conscious effort for this position is only for Hamza Shehbaz”.
Mr Hamza, the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, is currently in London with his uncle Nawaz Sharif. “In case the PTI-PML-Q decides to take up the no-trust motion against the CM, Hamza will have to rush back,” a PML-N lawmaker told Dawn.
When asked why Hamza was even away at a time when his party needed him here the most, the lawmaker said: “Hamza does not have anything to do regarding efforts to woo the PML-Q MPAs or holding talks with Mr Elahi. PPP’s Asif Zardari and PML-Q’s Chaudhry Shujaat have been tasked with this important job.”
‘Sought after’ PML-Q MPAs
Meanwhile, the federal ruling alliance has its eyes set on the 10 PML-Q lawmakers in Punjab as the tally – in case the no-confidence resolution is taken up -- may swing in its favour if at least seven of the MPAs are ‘persuaded’ to change their loyalties.
According to a party insider, both Mr Zardari and Chaudhry Shujaat have been working on these lines.
Moreover, with speculations rife that the PDM is making efforts to make CM Elahi switch sides, his son and PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi called on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday and vowed to stand with him.
“Held a meeting with Imran Khan and finalised a strategy to dissolve the Punjab Assembly. No matter how much effort the PDM makes, it cannot stop early elections. In the coming elections, victory is for Imran Khan,” Moonis tweeted.
In response to another tweet about the PDM’s ‘offers’ to Mr Elahi, Moonis said: “Not interested…absolutely not.”
Separately, former president Zardari met Chaudhry Shujaat as part of their consultations on the future of the Punjab Assembly.
PM’s Special Assistant Mr Khan briefed the two leaders about the constitutional and legal intricacies of the governor’s order to CM Elahi to seek a vote of confidence and the opposition’s no-confidence motion against the CM.
Federal ministers Salik Hussain and Tariq Bashir Cheema of the PML-Q as well as Sindh minister Nasir Hussain Shah were also present during the huddle.
Sources said the PPP also planned to introduce its candidate for the CM’s slot in case efforts failed to dissuade Mr Elahi from dissolving the assembly and to join the PDM. Mr Zardari discussed with Shujaat if the PML-Q would support the move that was reportedly backed by PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, who has already withdrawn his nephew Hamza from the race to the CM’s office by calling him to London a few days ago.
Sources privy to the development said although a couple of members of the ‘House of Sharif’ wished to control the province as de facto rulers by nominating a PML-N member for the office, the PPP is trying to present Makhdoom Usman, a son of former Punjab governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood, as a better alternative.
MPA Ali Haider Gilani, a son of former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, and PPP Punjab General Secretary Hassan Murtaza are also being considered dark horses in the race.
Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2022