‘No plan’ to dethrone PTI govt in Punjab

Party leaders spell out possible pathways for PML-N if situation warrants action


Rameez Khan September 23, 2022

LAHORE:

Disregarding Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Mashood’s statement about dethroning Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Punjab, party leaders have called his claims purely hypothetical, saying that the fate of the provincial government rests with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, upon whose actions the situation depends.

A day earlier, former provincial minister Mashood had claimed that by the end of October, PML-N would dislodge the PTI-led coalition government and assume control of Punjab.

Without divulging any details, the PML-N leader had said that their plan was already in motion, and it was because of this that Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi was not wrapping up the 41st session of the provincial assembly.

He had even claimed that the provincial chief executive was aware of this and had challenged him to end the ongoing session if he had the courage to do so, so he could see for himself what they had in store for him.

Mashood’s claim, seen in the backdrop of the concerns raised by the PTI chief about hidden hands making an effort to dislodge his party’s government, hinted at winds of change, though the deadline could be viewed with scepticism.

PML-N leaders have differed from the claims made by Mashood. A party leader from Punjab, who also serves in the federal cabinet, told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that there was no plan to take the provincial government down.

He said that there is a case scheduled to be heard on 27th regarding the decision to not count the 25 votes cast during Hamza Shehbaz’s election for the chief minister’s slot. He added that if the decision is overturned, the Punjab government will be in dire straits.

He made it clear that there is nothing on the cards but indicated that the PTI-led government could spell disaster on the country if it decides to march on Islamabad.

The PML-N leader said that Imran’s aim is to take the central government down before it gets the chance to appoint the new army chief or to defer the process somehow, therefore, it is likely that he will pick October for his long march, and with Punjab in PTI’s control, the centre will have little to counter the opposition party’s offensive. He added that this is where it becomes an urgent matter. He also talked about attempts to create a forward bloc in the party but conceded that the scenario was steeped in ifs and buts.

Another party leader close to the Sharifs also said that there was no plan in motion as had been indicated by Mashood. He said that if urgency warrants action, the party will have three options; get Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) lawmakers’ support, engage power brokers to form a forward bloc or approach the court to suspend their earlier decision that re-interpreted Article 63-A.

He claimed that if urgency requires them to do so, they will have the support of forces that can change the loyalties of MPAs. Furthermore, he added, given that they have their own governor in Punjab, asking the CM to take a vote of confidence will not be a problem for them, and if such a situation arises, Hamza is their candidate for the top provincial slot.

Another PML-N leader, speaking on the matter on the condition of anonymity, said that their plan banks on the powers that be. He said that power brokers, such as individuals like Jahangir Khan Tareen, will soon be at the forefront of things to put a political cloak on possible defections.

He said that assurances will be sought from MPAs to skip the session when asked. Here he was referring to the session that can be called on the advice of the governor for the chief minister to take a vote of confidence from the house.

The party leader said that there was a plan of engaging with PML-Q leaders to ensure a visible majority. However, he termed these two plans as rumours they have heard of.

He further said that the plan seems to aim for weakening PTI in Punjab to neutralise the threat they can pose in case the former premier decides to march to Islamabad from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) at the same time.

The PML-N leader, however, admitted that he was not happy with the plan, as any change in Punjab could weaken PML-N’s case before the masses as they would be seen as puppets and power cravers.

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