Amid growing deliberations among Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) legislators that the party should seriously consider its ally PML-Q’s advice — apparently coming from the establishment — to delay dissolution of the provincial assemblies, PTI chief Imran Khan is confident Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi will dissolve the Punjab Assembly soon after taking a vote of confidence.
“With the dissolution of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, the powers-that-be will be compelled to hold elections, and I foresee the polls in April,” Mr Khan told the media at his Zaman Park residence on Sunday.
“I am in touch with the new [military] establishment,” he explicitly claimed in the same breath.
The PTI wants the chief minister to take the vote of confidence before Jan 11 — the date when the high court holds its next hearing on the Punjab government’s plea against the governor’s ‘unconstitutional’ order to remove the chief minister and his cabinet.
Only a day earlier, Mr Khan saw the elections being held in March or April, while a day before that he had said the critical economic situation did not warrant taking the polls beyond February or March.
He reiterated his position why fresh elections were needed and how a public-mandated government in the saddle could rein in the plunging economy and bring it back on the path of progress and prosperity.
Though the PML-Q in the public is expressing full confidence and support for Imran Khan’s decision, CM Elahi has been vocal about delaying dissolution of the Punjab Assembly until its tenure is complete.
The chief minister’s son, Moonis Elahi, who is in direct talks with Mr Khan, has suggested the PTI hold its horses over the vote of confidence and first let the Lahore High Court decide whether the governor’s order to summon a session during an ongoing session as well as de-notifying the chief minister is valid or not.
Sources in the PTI said the party was also discussing whether it could gather the 186 members in the house required to win the vote of confidence – since some MPAs were abroad. The party was, however, confident that in the worst-case scenario, it would get Mr Elahi back in the chief minister’s office in a run-off vote count.
They also said the PML-Q leadership was right in cautioning that Mr Khan should first ensure he would get elections in Punjab and KP 90 days after both houses were disbanded.
In this context, the PTI chairman told the media that his party wouldn’t be bothered if elections were delayed as the incumbent federal government would continue facing the public wrath.
“The PTI did not dissolve the Punjab and KP assemblies immediately on Dec 17 because it had to convince its allies,” Mr Khan said in response to a question.
On Dec 16, a day before Mr Khan announced that the two assemblies would be dissolved on Dec 23, the chief minister had paid a quick visit to Rawalpindi, and returned carrying advice for the PTI chief to reconsider the decision to go ahead with the dissolution.
While stressing Mr Elahi would dissolve the assembly soon after taking a vote of confidence, Mr Khan observed restraint on a question about the intentions of the chief minister. “A good player is one who plays every ball bowled to him,” he remarked.
On the other hand, the PTI and PML-Q have been busy in deep consultations over seat adjustment since the latter plans to continue with the alliance. Mr Khan, in the meeting, however, did not give any clear response on the number of seats being adjusted.
While there are reports that the PML-Q wants a bigger share as compared to what it got in the 2018 general elections, the PTI says its ally would get seats where it showed its chances of victory.
Moonis Elahi has said the PML-Q wants both allied parties to decide about the seat adjustment, as the Punjab Assembly is going to be dissolved soon. He says the PTI chief constituted a committee, led by party Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, which has met thrice and is discussing constituency-wise seat adjustment.
Both allies have so far finalised matters on constituencies in central and south Punjab and Moonis brushed aside reports that the PML-Q is demanding 30 provincial and 15 National Assembly seats in Punjab. Mr Elahi hopes the PML-Q will get a large share of seats because this time “only politicians are in consultations”.
PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday told the media that the PML-Q would not be able to win in the next elections without the PTI’s support. The PML-Q would get seats as part of an adjustment plan where it showed its strength to win, he stated.
“The PTI and PML-Q have so far discussed seat adjustment in Gujrat and Gujranwala districts,” he explained.
Earlier in the day, PTI chief Imran Khan tweeted a message on the birth anniversary of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
“One of the main reasons we have been unable to realise our Quaid Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan is absence of justice through rule of law, which ensures equality before the law for all citizens. This leads to Haqeeqi Azadi, true freedom and protection of citizens’ rights.”
In a consequent tweet, Mr Khan wrote: “This in turn protects them from elite capture of the State and government. Unfortunately, in Pakistan because rule of law was never allowed to be established, elite capture of the country allowed powerful institutions and mafias to remain above the law as if it was their right.”
Meanwhile, the PTI chief also chaired a media strategy committee meeting and decided to give a tough time to the Pakistan Democratic Movement government.
Sources said the PTI leadership decided to adopt an aggressive media strategy against the PDM government and planned to ‘campaign’ on the alleged anti-national steps of the incumbent rulers.
They also said the PTI would highlight the deteriorating economic situation of the country besides criticising the bad governance and failed foreign policy of the government. The committee also decided to raise its voice for Senator Azam Swati and censure the government for disrupting the accountability process.