Political temperature rose a few more notches up on Monday after a steady stream of conflicting statements and ‘ambiguous’ developments around PTI’s plan to dissolve provincial assemblies seeded more uncertainty.
While the leading lights of the PTI insisted they were going to dissolve the provincial assemblies on December 20 with the “full support” vowed by the PML-Q if elections talks failed, the PML-Q took a line completely inconsistent with its ally in Punjab.
Speaking to the media in Lahore, former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, while confirming that “informal communications” between the party and government had begun, said that Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi and his son Moonis Elahi, too, wanted the assembly's dissolution and elections within 90 days after they are dissolved.
"Pervaiz Elahi and Monis Elahi have assured us that they will dissolve the assembly whenever we ask," Fawad said.
On the other hand, Punjab CM Pervaiz Elahi, in an interview on a television channel, said that the provincial assembly will "continue the same way for the next four months till March” – a statement that appeared to militate against Imran’s resolve to scuttle assemblies this month.
"My stance is the same ... I will dissolve [the assembly] whenever he (Imran) tells me to," he said. "That decision has been taken. However, now you'd have to think of its pros and cons. For that, we will have to hold talks."
Elahi said that from now till March would be "the best time for the opposition to initiate talks", adding that homework also needs to be done on how the election would be conducted.
“We have reservations with the chief election commissioner,” the chief minister said. “He is trying to disqualify Imran Khan.”
Replying to a question on whether he saw the assembly completing its term, the Punjab CM said “No it’s not like that. [It] depends on the opposition’s behaviour.”
A senior PTI leader confirmed to The Express Tribune that no one from the government's side had thus far reached out to PTI chief Imran Khan for dialogue on the early general elections.
He claimed that the political parties did not want the elections as they dreaded its consequences for their political fortunes. "The government functionaries want that in case the country defaults then the caretaker government will be formed for a long period which will suit them," he said.
The PTI leader also rejected the perception that there was a clash between CM Punjab and PTI regarding the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly.
PTI adamant about dissolving assemblies
Meanwhile, the PTI insisted on its earlier hardline tactic to dissolve the assemblies this month.
“We have tried to make them understand that no system other than elections can bring stability in the country,” Fawad told reporters.
He said that the party had decided to hold a meeting with the senior leadership on Tuesday (today) and admitted that there was "a difference of opinion among lawmakers over submitting their resignations" but said that the PTI chief had the final call on the matter.
“In this regard, we have kicked off meetings. We have called Lahore’s MNAs and MPAs to hear them out. Tomorrow, Imran has called a meeting of the party’s senior leaders to mull the strategy relating to politics and dissolution [of assemblies].”
The PTI leader also said that the party was receiving notices from the Federal Investigation Agency. “There are reports in the media suggesting that the Election Commission of Pakistan is initiating action for the disqualification of Imran as the party chief.
“It is a mistake […] the political scene in Pakistan is incomplete without Imran Khan,” he added.
Fawad further said that PTI was seeking “betterment” in ties with the armed forces and judiciary, not “deterioration” of their relationship and alleged that “maybe the government are trying to ruin the relations we are trying to improve”.
“We don’t want our differences with the army or judiciary to increase,” he said. “We are trying continuously that our differences with the institutions decrease.
“But we are seeing that constantly, despite our efforts for betterment, [there is] deterioration in ties with the judiciary and the armed forces. Some elements are exacerbating the differences,” the PTI leader claimed.
Elahi's 'go-slow approach'
A PTI leader told The Express Tribune that Elahi has advised against the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly for two reasons. Firstly, the chief minister believed that there was a need to examine the conduct of the incumbent establishment after the change of guard.
Secondly, Elahi wanted some time to grant development funds to PTI MPAs, the party leader said. Nonetheless, the chief minister has given full authority to Imran regarding the final call, he added.
Meanwhile, a senior cabinet member also confirmed that no negotiations were underway between the government and PTI regarding the early polls. He added that the government would be happy to contest Punjab Assembly's elections in case of dissolution.
Zardari-Shujaat mull over new political moves
Meanwhile, former president Asif Ali Zardari called on PML-Q Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain at his residence in Islamabad.
The ex-president, who is the president of the Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians, met the PML-Q chief to discuss the political situation of the country and the current political situation of Punjab in detail.
During the meeting, General Secretary PML-Q and Federal Minister for Food Security Tariq Bashir Cheema and former president's political secretary Rukhsana Bangash were also present.
Sources in both parties said that both the leaders met to mull over the ongoing political volatility and gauged their options. They said the seasoned politicians deliberated on different options, including tabling the vote of no-confidence against CM Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and decided to keep the cards close to their chest until a final decision was taken.
In the meeting, both leaders contemplated the situation that arose after the PTI chairman Imran Khan’s announcement that PTI would opt out of a “corrupt system” and subsequent decision that PTI would go for the dissolution of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies to force elections on the PML-N- led ruling alliance.
However, PTI has yet to announce a date for the dissolution of assemblies in Punjab and KP, where the party is in power.
In response to PTI’s threat, Zardari said on Thursday that the coalition government had decided to table no-confidence motions in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies.
Zardari had ruled out snap polls saying that it would neither suit the government nor democracy, saying it was way too early to say anything about the elections.
While also ruling out the possibility of the establishment forcing early elections on the ruling alliance, he had, however, said that the coalition parties would contest polls if PTI finally dissolved the provincial assemblies. “I will see how many MPAs Imran is able to get,” he had said.
PML-N leadership has also lately said that the party was ready to contest elections if PTI goes ahead with its decision to dissolve the assemblies.
Earlier this year, Zardari had met Shujaat in a bid to woo him to support the then PML-N’s candidate Hamza Shehbaz as the chief minister of Punjab. On the eve of the CM Punjab polls, Zardari had pulled a rabbit out of his hat when he had convinced Shujaat to write a letter that members of PML-Q will not vote for anyone.
The once-united family had shown signs of widening gaps. While reports hinted toward this time and time again, the suspicions were only confirmed when Shujaat’s letter against Elahi’s candidature for the provincial chief minister slot hindered his chances of success — but only for a few days.
Following the PTI victory in the by-elections, Elahi had the required numbers to clinch Punjab’s top slot, but Shujaat directed his party’s lawmakers to vote for PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz.
Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari had accepted Shujaat’s stance and rejected the votes of 10 PML-Q lawmakers. This ruling was, however, dismissed by the Supreme Court, which declared Elahi the winner of the election.
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