• Barrister Gohar says firm no to power-sharing talks with PML-N or PPP, claims they would prefer to sit in opposition
• Asserts that release of political prisoners, recognition of PTI’s mandate only ‘healing touch’ powers that be can offer
• Party demands resignation of CEC, ECP members for ‘facilitating poll fraud’

ISLAMABAD: Reali­sing that the lack of reserved seats would severely dent their chances of forming a government in the national and provincial assemblies, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has decided, in principle, to ally or merge with another political party to claim this benefit.

This was revealed by PTI leader Barrister Gohar Ali Khan on Sunday. Speaking to DawnNews, the PTI leader said that while they were exploring options in this regard, the party would definitely not be reaching out to either the PML-N or PPP for a possible alliance.

Speaking on the Doosra Rukh show, he said: “We don’t feel comfortable with both of them. There will be no talks with anyone to make a government or to make a government together with them. It is better to sit in the opposition than to make a government [with them], but we think we have the majority.”

He reiterated that if its mandate was not accepted, the party would form a strong opposition.

The issue of reserved seats would definitely be a roadblock for the PTI in its attempts to claim a majority to form a government in any assembly.

Even though it may have the highest number of directly elected members in the assembly, their status as independents means they do not qualify for the reserved seats for minorities and women that are allotted to the parties on the basis of lists provided to the ECP before the general elections.

After writing off the PML-N and PPP — the largest parties in the Centre and the provinces — the PTI may look to pursue a partnership with one of the others in the electoral mix.

One option would be the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), which has three members in the KP assembly. The two already have some experience of working together as allies in the KP government when the two formed a ruling coalition in 2013. However, that partnership was formally dissolved towards the tail-end of the provincial government’s tenure in May 2018.

Another option that had been floated earlier was a possible alliance with the Majils-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), one of the parties that have been in PTI’s camp for quite some time. However, it appears that MWM hasn’t submitted a list of minority candidates, while it could not be confirmed whether they had submitted a list of women candidates or not.

People reject turncoats

Meanwhile, Barrister Gohar Khan cal­led out all those politicians who switched loyalties in the past, saying that they had been rejected outright by the people in the Feb 8 elections, Dawn.com reported.

Speaking to Geo News, he said the party is looking into the matter of the PTI-backed independent Waseem Qadir joining the PML-N.

“The rest of the independent candidates are in touch with us and will stay with us only,” he asserted.

Barrister Gohar also clarified that the party had not asked the winning independent candidates to take an oath or resign from their seats in an effort to prevent them from switching their loyalties.

He said that party founder Imran Khan has given instructions to form governments in the Centre, KP and Punjab. “We will not remain outside or sit outside the assemblies. We have to sit in parliament and find solutions to all problems there,” he said, ostensibly a veiled reference to the party’s 2014 sit-in outside parliament, as well as their decision to dissolve the KP and Punjab assemblies in 2023 to force snap polls.

‘Healing touch’

Separately, Barrister Gohar emphasised that the release of political prisoners and acceptance of PTI’s mandate to rule are the only “healing touch” that the establishment could offer post-elections.

His remarks came after Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir said on Saturday that the nation needs “stable hands and a healing touch to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarisation”. In an interview with Arab News, Barrister Gohar said, “Healing touch would mean that you [army] got to make sure that there are no political prisoners anymore in Pakistan. “[PTI] mandate has to be respected. Short of it there can be no ‘healing touch’.”

“United government means that every party should be united in one thing, which is that you have to respect and regard people’s mandate first,” he said.

“The people have spoken [through the vote], and for the first time, they have spoken in a very tough situation [amid a crackdown against PTI].”

Protests and demands for resignation

As the party’s workers and supporters continued protests against alleged rigging in front of offices of returning officers around the country, the party called on the CEC and ECP members to resign, alleging that they had failed to hold free and fair elections on Feb 8, instead served as facilitators in poll “fraud”.

He alleged that results were tampered with to convert PTI’s overwhelming majority into a minority and to impose “PDM-2” on the nation once again.

On Sunday, the PTI spokesperson demanded the resignation of the CEC and ECP members, alleging that they worked as the main facilitators in the daylight robbery on the public mandate. He said the CEC and members of the ECP did not have any right or moral justification to stay in their positions any longer since they completely failed in performing their constitutional and legal duties, showing no regard or respect for the constitution and law.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2024

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