PTI strikes alliance with Sunni Ittehad Council, vows to form govt

Published February 19, 2024
PTI’s nominee for prime minister, Omar Ayub Khan (L) speaks as PTI’s chairman and barrister Gohar Ali Khan looks on during a press conference at PTI’s central secretariat in Islamabad on February 18, 2024. — AFP
PTI’s nominee for prime minister, Omar Ayub Khan (L) speaks as PTI’s chairman and barrister Gohar Ali Khan looks on during a press conference at PTI’s central secretariat in Islamabad on February 18, 2024. — AFP

• Imran-led party confident to form govts in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well
• Says alliance with Sunni Ittehad Council aims to claim reserved seats; MWM still an ally
• Talks with PTI-P hit snag

ISLAMABAD: Two days after its decision to sit on the opposition benches and launch a countrywide campaign against alleged rigging in the Feb 8 elections, the PTI on Sunday renewed its efforts to form governments in the Centre, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the help of a new partner, the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the talks between the PTI-Parliamentarians are stalled, after the PTI leadership demanded the removal of certain leaders, including ex-CMs Pervez Khattak and Mahmood Khan from the party.

However, during a press conference on Sunday, PTI leaders vowed to form governments, with its prime minister slot candidate Omar Ayub saying that 30 million votes were polled for PTI-backed candidates even without its electoral symbol of ‘bat’.

Barrister Gohar Khan claimed that PTI had won “180 seats in the National Assembly, 115 seats in Punjab, 16 in Sindh, 42 in KP, and four in Balochistan”. “In Balochistan, we got one seat, three are due. In Sindh, we did not get even a single seat. In Punjab, we are due about 50 seats,” he added.

New partner in Centre

To boost its numbers in parliament, the PTI after talks in Islamabad decided in principle to become partners with the Sunni Ittehad Council in the National and Punjab assemblies to claim seats reserved for women and minorities.

Before the SIC, the PTI had allied with the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen in Punjab and the Centre and an announcement to this effect was also made by the PTI spokesperson at a press conference last week. This decision seemingly irked the Jamaat-i-Islami, with which PTI had decided to enter a similar alliance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The JI had responded it was not interested in a ‘limited alliance’ with the PTI in KP.

Enter SIC, MWM sidelined

On Sunday, the deal with the MWM seemingly fell through due to apparent criticism from the KP-based leaders of the PTI, who had opposed the idea on “sectarian grounds”, said a PTI insider.

However, this was not confirmed by the PTI on record. PTI spokesperson Raoof Hassan said the MWM and the PTI were old allies as well as partners in Gilgit-Baltistan and this partnership would continue.

As SIC leader Hafiz Hamid Raza arrived in Islamabad at the MWM secretariat to hold talks with the PTI on the power-sharing formula, the meeting was also attended by the MWM leaders. There was no official statement after the meeting.

In light of decisions made at the meeting, the PTI ‘independents’ for the Punjab Assembly as well as the National Assembly were told to prepare two stamp papers each expressing their intention to join the SIC. These affidavits will be submitted to the ECP following the official declaration from the party.

As speculations on the break-up with the MWM continue, a PTI leader told Dawn that the MWM had not submitted a list of reserved candidates to the ECP before the elections, which could create problems for the merger. The MWM nominee had submitted nomination papers as an independent candidate.

“Later, the MWM acknowledged him and PTI also supported him… but MWM has not nominated even a single person for the reserved seats due to which Election Commission of Pakistan may say that the number of candidates for reserved seats can be increased only under one condition: when the party has already submitted a list of candidates for the reserved seat. In other words, a list can be updated but a new list cannot be submitted,” the source said.

They claimed that the decision to align with the SIC was taken to avoid any “adverse decisions” by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Road to KP Assembly

In KP, however, the proposed alliance with the PTI-Parliamentarian has hit a snag.

An official said that it was decided to merge the PTI in the PTI-P in KP with ex-KP CM Mahmood Khan as its co-chairperson, but there were objections to this idea and the PTI leaders wanted Mahmood Khan to quit the party just like his predecessor Pervez Khattak.

“Now, we are also contacting Jamiat Ulama-i-Islam-Nazryati and Tehreek-i-Inqilab in KP for the merger,” said a PTI leader. It may be noted that the decision to approach the PTI-P for merger was taken by the PTI after its talks with the JI collapsed.

Meanwhile, during the presser, PTI leader Omar Ayub claimed that over the past 10 months, PTI workers had been “harassed” by the police and nominated in “fake and frivolous cases to coerce them to shun their leader Imran Khan”.

Mr Ayub lamented that the police were picking up PTI workers and leaders and pressuring them to switch loyalties. He added that this was not the job of any caretaker set-up but unfortunately, the incumbent caretaker government had “exceeded its mandate”.

When asked about the statement of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman regarding the role of former generals in pushing the no-confidence motion against ex-PM Khan, Mr Ayub said the claims made by the JUI-F leader “endorsed” the PTI founder’s stance regarding an alleged conspiracy to remove him from power.

Mr Ayub, who is the PM-nominee from the PTI, said after becoming the prime minister, his priority would be to ensure the “instant release” of Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Bibi, and other party leaders and incarcerated women leaders, and activists.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2024

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