Wheeling & dealing kicks off

Published February 10, 2024
LAHORE: PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif delivers his ‘victory speech’ at Model Town, on Friday. Flanked by Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, he asked his younger brother to contact leaders of other parties to pave the way for a coalition government.—Murtaza Ali
LAHORE: PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif delivers his ‘victory speech’ at Model Town, on Friday. Flanked by Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, he asked his younger brother to contact leaders of other parties to pave the way for a coalition government.—Murtaza Ali

• Shehbaz meets Zardari and Bilawal, calls Khalid Maqbool
• PTI, MWM said to be in talks for ‘alliance’ in Centre, Punjab

KARACHI / ISLAMABAD: Even before counting of votes for national and provincial assembly contests was completed, leaders from a number of major political parties held meetings late on Friday night, ostensibly in the hopes of wrangling sufficient numbers to form governments in the Centre and the four provinces.

In a speech on Friday evening, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif had announced that he had tasked his brother, former PM Shehbaz Sharif, to reach out to major parties such as PPP, MQM-P and others, to form an alliance.

In this vein, Shehbaz met with PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari and his son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, at the residence of Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, sources told Dawn.

“The meeting was a kind of beginning of something big,” said a PPP source, indicating that they discussed the results of the polls and the post-election situation.

“The meeting was a very brief one; it didn’t last very long. Mr Zardari landed in Lahore on Friday evening while Bilawal was already there. The two drove to [Mr Naqvi’s] place where [Shehbaz] was already waiting for their arrival. It was a brief discussion but apparently it ended on a positive note.”

Later, Shehbaz also spoke to MQM-P Convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, senior leader Aminul Haque told Dawn. He said Mr Sharif had phoned them late in the evening, and both sides would hold a meeting “very soon”.

“We are celebrating our victory at Jinnah Ground in Azizabad on Saturday (today). The meeting would be held after that,” he said.

Before the general elections, the MQM-P had announced that it would support Nawaz Sharif as the prime ministerial candidate after elections. However, the dismal performance of the PML-N provided the MQM-P an opportunity to rethink, as Mr Haque refused to comment when reminded about his party’s electoral deal with the N-league.

Separately, MQM-P convener Dr Siddiqui invited all independent candidates who won the elections to join his party.

“Although we don’t have a briefcase our doors are open for all independent candidates,” he told a press conference.

MWM option

The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), who have had a long-standing relationship with the PTI since the latter’s sit-in outside Parliament House in 2014, are also said to be in the mix.

Sources in both parties told Dawn the possibility of PTI-backed independents merging with MWM in a bid to maintain discipline among its cadre and grab reserved seats for women and minorities.

Hameed Hussain of the MWM has been able to win one NA seat from NA-37 Kurram (Parachinar) with 58,650, defeating Sajid Turi of the PPP, who got 54,384 votes.

Incidentally, the MWM is also in a position to provide the same benefit to the PTI in the Punjab Assembly, with the presence of its candidate Raja Asad Abbas, who won from PP-18 Rawalpindi.

The Punjab Assembly has 297 general seats, with 66 reserved for women and eight for non-Muslims.

By joining the MWM or any other party, the PTI could gain around 24 women MPAs in Punjab.

PTI Central Information Secretary Raoof Hassan told Dawn the subject had been discussed heavily in party meetings and several options were on the table.

“Our first priority was to establish our party,” he said, but did not elaborate how they will be able to do that.

Mr Hassan added that a decision on whether their lawmakers would join the MWM or any other party, or remain independent, will taken in the coming days.

However, MWM Political Affairs Secretary Asad Naqvi said that there were no negotiations underway with the PTI leadership in this regard.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2024

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