PTI options: Has Imran got it right or is he making a mistake?

Dissolution of assemblies depend on whether CM sends reference to governor first or opposition files no-trust motion


Hasnaat Malik/Rizwan Shehzad   November 27, 2022
Imran Khan addressing PTI's power show in Rawalpindi on November 26. SCREENGRAB

ISLAMABAD:

After being disappointed with the Supreme Court and establishment for not facilitating to hold early general elections, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has changed his strategy wherein he has decided to quit from all provincial assemblies.

If that happens, then the PTI’s governments in the provinces of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will also come to an end. Quitting legislatures is not a new practice for the PTI.

It had left the National Assembly by submitting resignations in 2014, when the PML-N government was reluctant to form an inquiry commission to probe the alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections.

The PTI again left the assembly in April this year when it was ousted from power.

Instead of engaging with the political leadership, the PTI gave full attention to the institutions for holding early general elections since April but its strategy remained  unsuccessful.

Now, a debate has started as to why Imran had announced leaving the assemblies and would this strategy be successful.

First, Imran wants early elections because of his popularity among the people and it will be easy for the PTI to win the majority of the seats at present.

Secondly, the sword of disqualification is hanging over the PTI chief in several matters, especially the Toshakhana and prohibited funding cases.

An estranged PTI leader said if the PTI quit the Punjab Assembly then the PML-N might form its government in the province.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah while speaking on a private TV news channel said a resolution would be submitted immediately to the Punjab Assembly for a no-confidence vote against Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, a PML-Q stalwart.

In case of the submission of a no-confidence resolution against him, the CM cannot dissolve the assembly.

Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, the chief minister’s son, has announced that whenever Imran asked, the Punjab Assembly would be dissolved immediately.

However, political analysts say that if 'powerful circles' oppose the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, then the CM might also act upon their advice as he has a long-term association with them.

On the other hand, the situation is in favour of the PTI in the province of K-P.

If the PTI quits the K-P Assembly, then there is no option other than holding elections.

After Imran’s statement, political analysts say that now the federal government should engage with the PTI for a meaningful dialogue to rejoin parliament.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has already initiated dialogue with the PTI through President Arif Alvi. The PTI wants the announcement of a date for early general elections.

It has been learnt that now several PML-N lawmakers are in touch with the PTI to gain a ticket for contesting the next elections.

On the question about the legal consequences of the dissolution of two provincial assemblies on the National Assembly, Advocate Hafiz Hussain Khokhar said the fate of the legislatures with reference to their dissolution by the prime minister and chief ministers respectively would be independent and not affect the others.

Ever since, the PTI resigned en masse from the National Assembly back in April, it took to the streets and demanded snap elections.

The PTI leadership was repeatedly asked why it did not force elections on the ruling alliance by dissolving the Punjab and K-P assemblies or resigning en masse from the provincial assemblies, where it was in power.

Imran conditionally answered the question on Saturday when he maintained that the PTI would not be part of the corruption system anymore, saying he would consult the chief ministers and parliamentary parties before announcing his future course of action.

The government ministers, however, see Imran’s announcement of dissolving or abandoning the assemblies as a face-saving attempt when he could not muster  “revolution crowds”.

Political experts and former officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also expressed the opinion that dissolving assemblies would not be an easy task, saying the opposition parties in the provinces could block the move by tabling a no-confidence motion against the chief ministers.

They also said that leaving the system would also mean to ask President Arif Alvi, PTI senators as well as members of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan assemblies to resign, which would be “political suicide”. They termed the decision to resign “an unwise decision”, saying Imran might take a “U-turn”.

“[The] PTI face-saving flop show is anti-climactic,” Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari tweeted.

“Unable to pull revolution crowds, failed at undermining appointments of new chiefs, frustrated, resorts to resignation drama,” he added.

The PPP chairman said the PTI chief’s demand from Rawalpindi was not independence but to be “reselected”.

“How long will K-P and Punjab be used as political props,” he questioned.

Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said he believed that Imran had not yet made a final decision to resign from the assemblies.

“This is a threat probably to make a serious pitch to the incoming army leadership to somehow engage with him and do not support his opponents,” he added.

The PILDAT president noted that it was significant but surprising that Imran did not threaten to dissolve the Punjab and K-P assemblies, which probably would be a much greater pressure than just resigning from membership.

Mehboob pointed out that Imran had announced resignations saying that he did not want to be a part of the system.

“If he [Imran] really wants to dissociate from the ‘system’, he will have to make President Alvi, PTI senators and members of the AJK and G-B assemblies resign as well,” the PILDAT president said.

“This will be an act of political suicide and doesn’t guarantee the capitulation of the federal government to go for early elections,” he added.

Former secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Kanwar Dilshad explained that the chief ministers of Punjab and K-P, where PTI was currently in power, could send a reference for the dissolution of the assemblies to the governor of the provinces.

The ex-ECP official added that the province’s governor was bound to dissolve the assembly with three days when a chief minister sent a reference for this purpose.

However, Dilshad also said the PTI would be unable to dissolve the assemblies where it was in power if the opposition submitted a motion of no-confidence against the chief minister of the province concerned before they sent a reference to the governor.

“If the opposition parties in the assemblies immediately submit a no-confidence motion before the CM sends a reference to the governor, then the PTI will only be left with the option to resign; just like it did from the National Assembly,” Dilshad explained.

Commenting on Imran’s decision, Dilshad said he had made the announcement that PTI would leave provincial assemblies just to satisfy the people.

“He would take a U-turn and say that his party had advised otherwise when consulted if the PTI should go ahead or stay in the assemblies,” the former ECP official predicted.

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