KARACHI: Conceding “defeat”, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Thursday admitted that it made all-out efforts to save the Punjab Assembly from dissolution, but it was Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan who “played well” and left very little space for the party and its leader, Asif Ali Zardari, to “manage things” as he had done in the past.

Party sources told Dawn that Mr Zardari added his weight to the hectic efforts by the key opposition party, PML-N, and flew to Lahore a day before the vote of no confidence to try and push things in favour if its coalition partner in the Centre.

“It was Mr Zardari who, in July last year, played an instrumental role which was even lauded on record by the PML-N leadership for ensuring Hamza Shahbaz’s victory in the election for the Punjab chief minister’s slot,” said a source.

“This time things were a little different in the sense that the PML-N was confident it could manage things on its own, but realised at the eleventh hour that all is not well. By the time the realisation dawned on them and they felt the need for Mr Zardari’s assistance, it was already too late.”

Kaira rubbishes allegations that PPP leader tried to use money for leverage against PTI MPAs

While the PML-N was busy playing numbers in Punjab, the PPP was more focused towards Balochistan, where it had managed to bring key electables into the party fold. The party is also gearing up for the local bodies’ elections in Karachi and Hyderabad which are due on Jan 15.

Still, the source said, “honoring the pledge of his party’s unequivocal support for the PML-N,” Mr Zardari flew to Lahore to make a few last-ditch attempts.

Meetings, consultations and backdoor contacts, however, failed to “manage things” since Imran Khan himself was handling affairs related to the vote of confidence over the past several weeks.

A few candid admissions by senior PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira — thought to be quite close to Mr Zardari — also strengthened these claims.

“I don’t think it’s our failure,” Mr Kaira said, commenting on Parvez Elahi’s victory the night before. Appearing on ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath’ on Geo News, he referred to talk shows on different news channels before the vote of no confidence that “falsely accused” Mr Zardari of using financial means and trying to buy PTI MPAs.

“It’s all just heresy. It was all happening at the behest of our political opponents. Even Mr Zardari was accused of using the Sindh MPAs for this exercise. I just want to ask all those who were leveling such allegations what they would say now,” said Mr Kaira.

With just seven members in the Punjab Assembly, the PPP played its part to save the assembly from dissolution, said Mr Kaira.

However, he didn’t mention Mr Zardari’s role and his purpose of staying in Lahore while the provincial assembly was in session for the crucial vote of no confidence.

“We thought there were several PTI members who were angry with Imran Khan and Parvez Elahi because of their conduct,” Mr Kaira said, adding that their side figured such characters would not vote for Mr Elahi.

“But they somehow managed to convince [the undecideds] and succeeded. We just tried to stop them from dissolving the assembly, which is not an illegal move, but we believe it’s not the right time for such a step. However, we couldn’t make it.”

He also reiterated the “stated position” of the party, which doesn’t want early elections and believes that the polls for the National Assembly and all four provincial assemblies should be held simultaneously.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2023

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