The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is contemplating on an alliance with political parties, including emerging rival Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), for a protest campaign aimed at dislodging the government.
Officials told The Express Tribune on Saturday that PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has called a meeting of his party’s top leaders in Islamabad next week to decide when and how to approach Khan and other right-wing and nationalist parties for joining its public agitation campaign against the government.
No schedule has been finalised for the meeting but insiders said it could take place either next Saturday or Sunday, before the National Assembly session commences on November 14.
Sharif, who returned to Pakistan after touring Turkey and Britain for two weeks, is said to be worried about the turnout at PTI’s rally in Lahore last week and wants to move ahead with his political maneuvers as soon as possible.
Sources said that Sharif had ordered party leaders hostile to PTI, including Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, not to issue statements against Imran, in an apparent attempt to prepare grounds for opening negotiations with the former cricket hero.
At the meeting after Eid, which will be attended by members of the party’s central working committee (CWC) as well as the parliamentary board, the PML-N is also likely to decide to open a scrutiny of candidates it wants to field in the general elections. However, one official commented, the top most issue on the meeting’s agenda would be how to tackle the rise of Imran as a political opponent in the urban centres of Punjab – a conventional stronghold and major vote bank of the party.
“Of course, Imran Khan is an important factor in Punjab’s politics now …we cannot ignore him anymore. That’s why Mian Sahib (Nawaz Sharif) doesn’t want to overlook him in future,” the official added.
Although PTI’s October 30 rally in Lahore is said to be the real trigger behind the PML-N’s decision to seek an alliance with rightwing parties in Punjab and nationalist parties in Balochistan, a party spokesperson refused to admit it.
“We were planning it long before Imran rallied in Lahore …we are a political party not stock brokers that we change our decisions with the wind,” said Senator Mushahidullah Khan.
He, however, did not rule out that the party could offer an alliance to Imran Khan or seek one with him.
Last week, Punjab’s Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said in Faisalabad that the PML-N might think of inviting the PTI to join its campaign in order to dislodge the government.
Imran Khan’s reciprocated promptly.
“It is only possible if party leaders including Sharif declare their assets,” the PTI chief told journalists at the Lahore airport before his departure to China.
PML-N leaders said the decision at next week’s meeting would be limited to negotiating an alliance with the PTI on a one-point agenda of cooperation in an anti-government campaign.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2011.