On Sunday evening, at an iftar held at the Governor’s house in Lahore, as the nation was preoccupied with the violence in Karachi, leaders from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party met to discuss another pressing concern: what to do in case, as expected, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz resigns from the National Assembly in the third week of September?
Among the leaders present were Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Punjab Governor Abdul Latif Khosa. Complicating the discussion of the PPP leaders was the rumoured rift between the Sharif brothers – Nawaz and Shahbaz – who lead the PML-N.
Nawaz, the elder brother and the president of the party, reportedly wanted to resign from both the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly. Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab, reportedly agreed to the resignations from Parliament but does not want to lose the Punjab Assembly just yet.
According to sources familiar with the deliberations, the PPP leadership in Punjab decided that, in the event that the PML-N leave the National Assembly, the ruling party would conduct by-elections and generally try to keep the political climate calm until March 2012, when the Senate elections are due to be held. The PPP expects to expand its presence in the Senate to 47 from the current 28.
Should the Punjab Assembly be dissolved – and the PPP leaders seemed to be in agreement that this would be a last resort – the party would then impose governor’s rule in the province. It is unclear for how long.
Shaukat Mehmood Basra, the PPP’s deputy leader in the Punjab Assembly, confirmed that the PPP expected the PML-N’s resignations in the National Assembly in September, but did not elaborate on the party’s strategy.
The prime minister, for his part, seems nervous. On Sunday he said that he had never claimed that the government would complete its term, merely that Parliament would, a distinction he has never drawn before.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2011.