PDM leaders renew coalition in a bid to form government

Published February 13, 2024
Senior politicians address a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV
Senior politicians address a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV

Political leaders belonging to the former alliance of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), as well as some new faces, announced their bid on Tuesday night to form the next government in a coalition setup.

Last week, the PPP and PML-N began hectic efforts to hammer out some sort of power-sharing formula in the national and Punjab assemblies after PTI-backed independent candidates emerged to the top in the National Assembly polls, with at least 93 seats.

PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan announced a coalition with the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen in the Centre and Punjab. “And in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for reserved seats, we will form a coalition with the Jamaat-i-Islami,” he said at a press conference today after meeting imprisoned PTI founder Imran Khan at Adiala Jail.

The announcement by the former allies in the previous government was made in an Islamabad press conference at the home of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid chief Chaudhry Shujaat attended by a who’s who of politicos, including PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori and Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party’s Aleem Khan and Awn Chaudhry.

Notably missing was PDM and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Fazlur Rehman.

“We have decided to sit together and form the government. God willing we will take Pakistan out of difficulty,” Zardari made the announcement as he kicked off the press conference.

“We have to do reconciliation and the PTI is included in that. It is not that we don’t want the PTI to enter reconciliation. It should and every other political force should, come and talk with us. Our economic and defence agenda should be common. We should move forward with our commonalities and then make the house of Sharif and others successful so we can make Pakistan successful.”

Zardari said he and other political leaders were aware of the level of the country’s debt and were aware of future debt repayments as well as issues affecting the nation.

“Looking at everything, we have thought and decided to sit together. We have contested elections against each other but despite that, it is not necessary that [we fight] forever. Opposition happens in elections. It was electioneering opposition, not ideological opposition.”

Zardari said the leaders could sit together, talk together and run the country together.

Shehbaz said the political leaders together with him had gathered to tell the nation that election campaign politics of opposition was over with the imminent formation of the Parliament.

“Now our war is against the country’s challenges. The first challenge is the economy. We have to stabilise it which is a tall task. Nations move forward when their leadership unites and decides to end conflicts and take the nation forward to eliminate problems.”

He said the next task on the agenda was to solve the country’s economic issues.

“Today we have united to tell the nation that we all accept the split mandate. I am thankful to Zardari and Bilawal that they decided for their party to vote for the PML-N,” he said and thanked the other gathered leaders as well.

Shehbaz said the other gathered parties with him represented “almost 2/3 majority” of the Parliament after elections.

He said if PTI-backed independents could form the government then they were welcome to do so and the gathered group would accept it, otherwise, the “overwhelming majority” of the group also had the right to do so.

Shehbaz requested his brother Nawaz Sharif to accept the office of the prime minister and also said that PML-N Senior Vice President Maryam Nawaz will be the Punjab chief minister candidate after the party’s consultations.

To a question about whether Zardari would be the next president, Shehbaz said: “We won’t disappoint you.”

Shehbaz called for an end to “issues of ego” and personal conflicts, adding that the need was for “revolutionary steps” to rescue the country’s economy.

“Come and I again invite the Charter of Economy to everyone. Come, move forward and let’s together promote the Charter of Democracy and end the things we said against one another.”

He said the enemies of the nation should be shown that it was united.

“Forgive and forget. Let us have this charter of reconciliation.”

Siddiqui said that no interest could be greater than serving Pakistan for any party at the moment.

“With mutual cooperation, we will strengthen democracy and support Shehbaz Sharif. We have supported him before and will do so in future,” he said.

Siddiqui said everyone must put aside their political interests and move ahead with a common approach to serve the country.

Aleem said that Pakistan was going through an extremely difficult phase with inflation impacting the poor and the economic crisis aggravating.

He said everyone had to step up for difficult decisions beneficial for the country.

“I am hopeful the upcoming government of Shehbaz Sharif will efficiently take such decisions and end the miseries of the poor,” he added.

He said he was thankful to Shujaat for inviting all political leaders for important discussions.

Shortly after the joint press conference, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said Nawaz nominated Shehbaz for the post of the country’s prime minister and Maryam for Punjab’s chief minister.

PPP to not join federal cabinet: Bilawal

Just hours earlier today, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said his party would lend support to the incoming government in the case of important votes — such as the election of the prime minister — and on “issue to issue basis” but would not join the federal cabinet.

The remarks came after a two-day-long meeting of the PPP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), which was presided over by Zardari.

In a press conference today, Bilawal said the PPP’s CEC meeting discussed the current situation of the country, the threats to political stability and the concerns regarding Pakistan reaching a crisis point.

“The PPP’s principal decision is to take Pakistan out of the current crisis,” he said.

“The reality is that the PPP does not have a mandate to form a government in the federation and due to this I will not be putting myself forward for the candidacy of the prime minister,” Bilawal said, adding that the PML-N and independents had greater numbers to form a government in the Centre.

He noted that the PTI had announced that it would not engage in dialogue with the PPP and hence it ruled out the possibility of an independent-led government.

“The PPP has decided that we are unable or not in a position to join the federal government ourselves and will we be not interested in taking ministries in such a setup.

“But we also don’t want to see political chaos in the country,” he stressed.

Bilawal also recalled that his party ran for the Feb 8 polls on a manifesto based on issues of public importance and wanted to restore political stability.

“To that end, the PPP will be willing to support the case of important votes — a candidate of the PM of Pakistan — and issue to issue basis to ensure that the government is formed and political stability is restored,” he said.

In that context, Bilawal continued, the PPP had decided to form a committee to engage with other political parties on an “issue-to-issue basis” such as the premiership, budget and legislation.

However, the PPP leader said he wanted to see his father as the president. “And I am not saying this because he is my father, I am saying this because the country is in a huge crisis at the moment and if anyone can douse this fire, it is Asif Ali Zardari,” he asserted.

Further, Bilawal stressed that his party had concerns pertaining to the election results but had decided to accept them “in the larger interest of the country”. He said PPP members had specifically highlighted concerns on a level playing field with Asif Ali Zardari and the latter had assured that these complaints would be addressed.

In response to a question regarding the PTI’s stance on dialogue with other political parties, Bilawal said the Imran-led party was making decisions that were not favourable for democracy.

“Saying that we will not talk with anyone, okay don’t do it. But why did people vote for you? They voted for you to resolve their problems […] a political force must listen to others,” he said.

The former foreign minister further stated that all political forces needed to think about the country and end the politics of division. “They must not just think about themselves […] this way the enemies of the country would want to benefit from this crisis.”

“It takes two to tango,” he added.

In this scenario, Bilawal said the PPP had today once again decided to raise the slogan of “Pakistan khappay” only for the sake of the country and in the interest of the people.

In a social media post later in the day, the PPP announced the names of the members of its six-member committee tasked with contacting and coordinating with political parties.

The committee comprises Qamar Zaman Kaira, Murad Ali Shah, Saeed Ghani, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri and Shuja Khan.

Will gladly sit in opposition benches if independents form govt: Shehbaz

Earlier today, Shehbaz said his party would “gladly sit in the opposition benches” if independent candidates were able to form a government.

Speaking at a press conference in Lahore, Shehbaz said that the PML-N had emerged as the “biggest political party” after the February 8 polls.

Acknowledging that independent candidates had garnered more votes, he said, “If you count independent candidates, then obviously their number is greater. You cannot dispute the facts. But in political parties, the PML-N is number one, followed by the PPP and so on and so forth.”

He further said that since the results of the polls had been released, it was now time to move onto to the “next phase”.

“If independent candidates, who call themselves PTI sponsored or non-PTI sponsored, if they can form a government then go ahead. The president will not give them an invitation,” he said.

“If independent candidates, who call themselves PTI sponsored, […] if they can show a majority, then we will gladly sit in opposition benches and play our constitutional role,” he said.

“But if they cannot, then other political parties have the right to form a government,” he said. “That is the legal and democratic way to do things.”

“We need to move forward like this and finalise the upcoming phase,” he said.

“All political factions need to put their differences aside and join hands to help tackle the challenges, of which Pakistan has several,” he added.

Commenting on allegations of rigging by political parties, he asked: “In which elections have there not been rigging allegations?”

Shehbaz said that on election night, on the basis of a mere 10-12 per cent of results, there was a “one-sided” declaration that independents were winning and parties were losing, which was “inappropriate”.

“On one hand there are allegations of rigging [but] then independents are winning and we are losing. This is contradictory,” he said.

He noted that when PTI came to power in 2018, his party did not hold long marches, protest the results or call for civil disobedience. Rather, they worked dutifully as the opposition for the betterment of Pakistan, he said.

He further commented that despite political differences, the opposition was more than willing to meet with then-prime minister Imran Khan on several issues, including on Kashmir and Covid-19, but alleged that Imran “made every effort to avoid meeting”.

He further noted that his government was the one to “save democracy in Pakistan”.

When asked about the possibility of a new deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he said: “Let there be no doubt about it, given the point where our economy is at the moment, we will have to go for another IMF package and without delay, whether [it is] a coalition or some other arrangement.”

During his media talk, Shehbaz was also asked about party supremo and older brother Nawaz Sharif’s prospects of becoming premier.

“I still stand by my words that Nawaz Sharif will become prime minister for the fourth time,” Shehbaz said as he recalled the string of achievements during the elder Sharifs’ tenure.

He further stated that during the tenure of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, he made utmost efforts to decrease corruption.

In a response to questions regarding inducting “turncoats” into the PML-N, Shehbaz said PTI hurled abuses at his party during its election campaign. “Despite that, Nawaz Sharif said that PTI-backed independents should be given their constitutional right to form a government if they want to.

“But if people want to join the PML-N out of their own will, what is the problem in that?” he asked.

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