LAHORE: In the game of political brinkmanship being played against the current administration, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has decided to pull out its trump card: threatening to dissolve the Punjab Assembly.
On Sunday, a proposal to dissolve the provincial legislature was issued by Tahir Ali Javed, a member of the Punjab Assembly from Narowal, and the leader of the ‘unification bloc’ of the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid, the 47-member group of dissidents within the 81-member PML-Q caucus that is loyal to the rival PML-N.
Javed admitted to The Express Tribune that his bloc had decided to forward the request to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif after it became evident that the PML-N’s efforts to dissolve the National Assembly had failed.
The move sparked a fiery reaction from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. Senator Babar Awan of the PPP accused the PML-N of trying to sabotage the PPP’s expected victory in the Senate elections, due to be held in March 2012.
“The PML-N talks about democracy but wants to escape the Senate elections,” said Awan at a press conference in Faisalabad on Sunday. “This is nothing but a stunt being aired through lotas (turncoats).”
Sources close to the party told The Express Tribune that the PML-N had tried a few days ago to convince the PML-Q’s 50 members of the National Assembly to switch sides, but were thwarted in their effort by President Asif Ali Zardari, who moved quickly to allay the party’s fears by contacting PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
The sources confirmed that the move to dissolve the Punjab Assembly was part of the PML-N’s strategy to avoid the Senate elections, in which the PPP is expected to win anywhere between 46 and 53 seats, effectively becoming the majority party in the upper house of parliament until the next Senate elections in 2015.
The swiftness with which President Zardari was able to beat back the challenge from the PML-N has put the party on the back foot, forcing them to exercise their ‘last resort’ option far earlier than they had initially wanted and making the PML-N more cautious about its political strategy.
Initial reaction within the Punjab Assembly is mixed at best, with only Pakistan Muslim League Zia coming out in support.
(With additional reporting by Shamsul Islam in Faisalabad)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2011.