LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has hinted at returning to the National Assembly to ensure that the “party turncoats” do not help Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif get vote of confidence that the party is planning to put the premier to “test”.

With PTI dissident Raja Riaz holding the parliamentary party leader’s position in the National Assembly, PTI fears that he may decide to vote in favour of the prime minister if President Dr Arif Alvi asks Shehbaz Sharif to take the trust vote.

In a meeting with media persons at his Zaman Park residence on Monday, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said planning and consultations with party leaders as well as legal experts were afoot to strategise how PTI’s turncoats can be stopped from siding with the ruling coalition of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

Raja Riaz leads the group of PTI MNAs who did not tender their resignations when the party decided to quit the assembly in the aftermath of Imran Khan’s ouster as PM in last April.

Sources say the party might send its legislators, more than the number of PTI dissidents, to the National Assembly to check the legislators elected on the PTI tickets.

They said that even then Raja Riaz’s decision as the parliamentary leader might still prevail as it would require time and efforts to get Mr Riaz replaced from the parliamentary leader’s position.

Imran says PM will soon have ‘sleepless night’; Raja Riaz’s position to be challenged

Sources say the PTI is not interested in discussing the caretaker set-up at the federal level as it believes that the matter will eventually land in the court of Election Commission of Pakistan, but it’s considering “testing” PM Sharif’s strength in the house sensing that cracks are appearing in the PDM’s ranks.

PTI’s senior leader Fawad Chaud­hry told Dawn.com that the party’s return to the National Assembly was linked with its plan to oust PM Sharif.

He said PTI was seeking legal opinion on how it could bind its MNAs to vote in line with the party policy in case of a no-trust move, and if that can be achieved without joining the assembly.

“We will take the decision for returning to the National Assembly based on the legal advice.”

The PTI leader acknowledged that talks over a caretaker set-up were not the sole reason to consider returning to the assembly because the ECP would finally be deciding about the caretaker set-up — “as per the whims and wishes of PML-N”.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, in the meanwhile, stated that his government would “welcome back” PTI MNAs to the National Assembly and added that the federal government would discuss the caretaker set-up only after the government completed its tenure in August.

According to reports, Imran Khan told media persons that they would return to the National Assembly to play its role in the finalisation of the caretaker set-up. He said PM Sharif would soon be having “sleepless nights”.

Claiming that some PML-N MNAs are in contact with PTI, he said they would be “entertained” after they “qualified his test”.

Mr Khan said the PDM government had been trapped as they could not dare increase petroleum products’ prices and added that this action would keep the IMF away from Pakistan.

Continuing his tirade against the establishment, the former prime minister said there was no letup in the “Bajwa doctrine’s” activities.

He described PTI Karachi organisation’s weakness and “rigging” by the ruling PPP as the reasons behind the PTI’s defeat in the local government elections.

Meanwhile, the PTI chairman called party spokespersons’ meeting to discuss political situation in the country and reach a consensus on the party’s narrative in the days to come.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2023

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