The ruling coalition in Punjab is trying to reach a consensus on the provincial assembly’s dissolution amid Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s insistence that he will announce the date for the process on Saturday.
On Thursday, hectic contacts continued between the ruling and opposition circles to forestall any such move, while the PTI announced it has written to the National Assembly speaker to accept the resignations of all its lawmakers.
After meeting federal ministers Ayaz Sadiq and Azam Nazeer Tarar on Wednesday, President Arif Alvi had dashed to Zaman Park to consult Imran Khan. Then, on Thursday, he landed at the Punjab chief minister’s office.
The president, who has been spearheading backchannel talks between the PTI and the ruling coalition, met with Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, his son Moonis and nephew Hussain, and reportedly asked them to keep trying to persuade the PTI chief to “review his decision to dissolve the Punjab and KP assemblies”, sources said.
“Keep trying” was the parting message from President Alvi that re-energised the Chaudhrys, following which Moonis Elahi (along with his cousin MNA Hussain Elahi) paid his third visit to Mr Khan’s residence within 24 hours to discuss the developing situation, including their lawmakers returning to the National Assembly to persuade the government to call early general elections. This was the same mantra reportedly conveyed to both parties by government ministers a day earlier.
On Twitter, CM Elahi stated that they held a detailed meeting with Dr Alvi and discussed the country’s economic situation in the wake of the current political turmoil. They also expressed concern over the poor state of the economy and ‘poor’ policies of the federal government. The president said it was high time everyone thought of Pakistan as Pakistanis.
“Nothing is final in politics; decisions have to be made under the prevailing circumstances,” he posted, suggesting unity and political tolerance.
“We are trying to resolve the issues amicably and hope God will find a better way for Pakistan,” a statement from the CM House quoted Dr Alvi as saying and also complimenting Mr Elahi for being a seasoned politician with sound opinion on political issues.
However, in a series of tweets later, the CM stressed he stood with Imran Khan and the chief minister’s post was a trust reposed in him by the PTI chief. “Saving the state is now the top-most priority. Everyone should think about Pakistan over and above their personal interests,” he stated. He also regretted that the federal government had reversed Pakistan’s economic progress within just seven months and still wanted to extend its tenure.
Letter to NA speaker
Meanwhile, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi once again expressed his party’s resolve to dissolve the two provincial assemblies and get PTI MNAs’ resignations accepted after appearing before the National Assembly speaker. “We have already made our decision. We will execute it,” he stated. “Imran Khan gave me a letter. I am signing it as the vice chairman of the PTI and sending it to the speaker.”
Waving the ‘letter’ bearing the subject “Resignations of MNAs of PTI” while speaking to the media outside Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence, Mr Qureshi said the party had written the letter seeking acceptance of the resignations of all PTI MNAs.
He chided Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf for being “selective” while accepting the resignations of only 11 MNAs “illegally”, and went on to accuse him of using his office for “partisan reasons” and providing “political advantage” to the incumbent government by not accepting all the resignations.
The letter stated that the PTI’s 123 legislators had submitted their resignations on April 11 to former NA deputy speaker Qasim Khan Suri that were accepted two days later. It was followed by a notification from the National Assembly secretary for publication in the Gazette of Pakistan Extraordinary Party-III. However, the order was not implemented by the incumbent government to avoid general elections in the country.
Later, in a surprising and blatantly illegal manner, the letter stated, the resignations of just 11 of the MNAs were accepted by the speaker on July 28. “It remains unclear on what legal basis your office could selectively de-seat some of the members of the National Assembly instead of all the members, who tendered their resignations at the same time and similar manner on April 11 this year,” Mr Qureshi stated in the letter.
“Despite a clear position by the PTI legislators to resign, you used your office, as custodian of the house, for partisan reasons and to provide political advantage to the current government,” Mr Qureshi stated directly addressing the speaker.
Once again demanding acceptance of resignations of all the remaining MNAs without any delay, Mr Qureshi in the letter urged the NA speaker to allocate some time in the next week for the party’s MNAs to approach him and verify their resignations.
He also questioned the legitimacy of the NA proceedings and any legislation in the absence of the “largest and most popular” political party from the house.
Flanking Mr Qureshi, former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry clarified to the media that the PTI MNAs had stopped receiving their salaries after April. Referring to the hearing of a petition challenging amendments to the accountability law in the Supreme Court and the court expressing shock over the PTI lawmakers reportedly still drawing salaries, Mr Chaudhry said “the government representatives stated incorrect facts” in the SC and urged for the matter to be thoroughly checked by relevant authorities.
He said the party had written to the National Assembly speaker only for the Supreme Court’s satisfaction. The ECP was not accepting the resignations because it was “literally a subsidiary of PML-N”, he claimed.
The PTI leader insisted that the Punjab and KP assemblies would be dissolved for which Imran Khan would announce the final date on Saturday, adding that it could be Dec 17 or 23.