The coalition government is working in full gear to take back governance of Punjab, either through the disqualification of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, or by winning over more MPA’s from PTI and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).
Journalist Waqas Ali spoke to Dawn News journalist Zulqarnain Tahir on the Naya Daur Media show ‘Islamabad Buzz’ about the alleged ‘horse-trading’ that is being anticipated in Punjab. Waqas Ali noted that there were rumors circulating that some PML-Q MPAs had contacted Chaudhry Shujaat, which suggested that they are considering joining the Shujaat camp. He also said that there is also talk of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zardari coming to Lahore to partake in some important meetings, which are thought to be further attempts to win over PTI MPAs.
Zulqarnain Tahir responded and said that while there certainly are rumors of that nature, which might also be true, this would be Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) plan B. He said that the coalition government was anticipating that Imran, in desperation, would call for another long march to Islamabad, which would be significantly easier now that he is governing Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “In this situation, it would be very easy for Imran to besiege Islamabad and force the federal government’s hand, which is why we are seeing the stages for a power struggle in Punjab being set,” said Zulqarnain, reiterating that the alleged horse-trading and making and breaking of party structures was still the government’s Plan B.
“Plan A is something else: as per the PML-N members that I’ve spoken to off the record, they tell me that the government is really banking on the Supreme Court,” he said. PML-N and PPP will allegedly file a review petition against the earlier decision of the Supreme Court by which Parvez Elahi replaced Hamza Shahbaz as the Punjab Chief Minister. “They intend to file a review petition with a larger bench of the Supreme Court, and are of the opinion that the larger bench will give them relief, thereby overturning the earlier verdict and reinstating Hamza as the CM,” he claimed.
Tahir was also of the opinion that Parvez Elahi’s tweets in support of the establishment were not indicative of a rift between him and Imran Khan. If anything, he said, they were consistent with the PML-Q’s historically pro-establishment stance. He said that Elahi was still trying to mend bridges between the establishment and Imran Khan, and wanted to smooth things over before they got too out of hand. He said that it also was unlikely that PML-Q MPAs would jump ship and abandon Khan and Elahi, because the by-polls have proven that PML-N and PPP tickets are no longer ‘hot-seats’. He said that the postponement of the by-polls in many parts of Punjab by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was welcomed with ‘a sigh of relief’ by PPP, as they knew they did not have a strong footing.
He said that Khan would not initiate the long march until he was absolutely desperate and had no other resort. Tahir also noted that the decision by the ECP to postpone the by-elections was very surprising, because at least 7-8 of the constituencies where the election was delayed were not at all affected by flooding. “This strengthens Khan’s allegations that the ECP is skewed in favor of the coalition government being led by PML-N,” he said, adding that it really was not difficult to be doubtful about this decision. Referring to the ECP’s claims that the postponement was due to security forces being involved in relief work, he said that they could still have spared some security forces because these weren’t widespread elections, and were limited to only a few constituencies.