LAHORE: An imminent threat to the governing coalition appears to have dissipated as the ruling PTI has managed to placate its key estranged ally after several round of negotiations punctuated by public vocalisation of disillusionment and grievances.
“Misunderstandings” between the PTI and the PML-Q were removed in a meeting between negotiators from both parties on Monday – a day after JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman exhorted Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to reveal the “secret agreement” under which the cleric had called off his dharna (sit-in) in Islamabad.
The Maulana claimed that he had ended his 13-day-long ‘Azadi March’ dharna in November last year following an “assurance” that Prime Minister Imran Khan would resign next year and fresh general elections would be held within three months of his exit from power.
The JUI-F chief wouldn’t say who had given him the “assurance”, but the Chaudhrys of Gujrat were shuttling between him and the government to negotiate an end to the sit-in.
PTI’s new negotiating committee – comprising Punjab’s Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, and Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood – held its maiden meeting with Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who is also speaker of the Punjab Assembly, at his residence in Lahore.
The first attempt by Mahmood to soften up Elahi last week didn’t yield much as the later insisted his party would only negotiate with the PTI’s previous negotiating team. Perhaps this was the reason Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, a member of the previous committee, and Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar also accompanied the new team.
At Monday’s talks, Elahi was assisted by his son Monis Elahi, and senior party colleagues Kamil Ali Agha and Tariq Bashir Cheema.
Appearing jointly before the media after the meeting, a visibly happy Elahi called their discussions “very positive” which, according to him helped resolve “misunderstandings between the collation partners”. He added that the two sides discussed all contentious issues threadbare and “I would say all matters have been solved”.
PTI negotiators see allies back in fold soon
“We want our partnership with the ruling party to continue till the next general elections,” he said. “Every government has to face challenges, but the PML-Q would stand by the PTI to surmount these challenges.”
Elahi added that the consultation process between the allies would continue to solve people’s problems. The PML-Q supports change and would like to see that change happening during Premier Imran’s term in office, he said. “The impact of change should trickle down to the poor.”
The government has been drawing flak over soaring inflation and rising prices of basic food items, but Elahi said nobody could doubt the sincerity of Premier Imran despite the mushrooming challenges.
Appearing besides Elahi, Khattak claimed that all “misunderstandings” between the allies have been removed. “The PML-Q’s reservations were blown out of proportion, which created these misunderstandings. All reservations have been assuaged – and now the talk of abandoning each other should be put to rest,” he added.
“All differences have been addressed now. We were, are, and will remain partners,” he said. “Neither the Q-League nor the MQM-P will pull out of the governing coalition,” Khattak said, adding that the PTI wanted to contest the next elections together with its allies.
Moonis Elahi also endorsed Khattak’s views on Monday’s negotiations. “The Pakistan Muslim League and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are now on the same page. The final round of talks between the two parties is complete, the PML and PTI alliance will continue,” he wrote on his Twitter handle.
Most reservations of the Q-League were related to development funds and administrative powers. According to sources, the government negotiators on Monday granted most of the PML-Q’s demands, including “empowerment” of its ministers, non-interference of the PTI ministers in the Q-League constituencies and appointment of civil servants recommended by the PML-Q in their constituencies.
However, the PTI government could raise objection on the appointment of any controversial official and propose another name in consultation with the ally. The government negotiators have also agreed to release funds to PML-Q’s lawmakers for development in their respective constituencies.
Elahi, however, denied the issue of public servants was discussed in the meeting. “We braved the Shehbaz Sharif-era not with the help of public officers but due to our belief in serving the people,” he added.
The relationship between the PTI and the PML-Q, which is the government’s ally at the Centre as well as in Punjab, had soured after the ruling party failed to implement decisions of the Jehangir Tareen-led negotiating team.
The PML-Q had gone as far as to threaten the government that it might review its alliance if it didn’t honour its commitments.