After losing hope about its ability to form a government in Punjab, the PML-N has channeled its energies towards having speakers and deputy speakers of its choice elected in the centre and Punjab, it emerged.
According to multiple official, PML-N leaders Hamza Shahbaz, Rana Sanaullah and Saad Rafique have approached independent lawmakers-elect in this regard.
Recently elected independent MPAs requesting anonymity, told media that people associated with “Chief Minister House in Lahore” have been contacting lawmakers-elect on behalf of the three PML-N leaders.
The MPAs claimed that the newly elected lawmakers were told that the PML-N leaders respect their decision to vote for or join the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — all they want them to do now is to vote for the PML-N’s candidates for the slots of speakers and deputy speakers in the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly.
Initially, PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz had announced that, “despite all the rigging”, his party would form a government in Punjab. Subsequent developments, however, indicated that the PTI was going to run the provincial government. The PML-N had also approached the PML-Q to thwart that possibility but received a cold response.
A PTI senior leader and legal adviser to Imran Khan, Babar Awan, today claimed that the party has managed to gain the support of a sufficient number of Punjab lawmakers to bring in its own chief minister.
“The PML-Q had contested the elections in coalition with us and God willing they will be a part of the government as well. As far as independent candidates are concerned … we have completed our numbers in Punjab as well as in the centre,” he claimed.
The PTI leader, however, set aside rumours about fielding Yasmeen Rashid as chief minister, saying an “elected” MPA will be Punjab chief minister. Rashid lost her election by a narrow margin, but is expected to be sent to the Punjab Assembly on a reserved seat.
Awan concluded, “Only Imran Khan knows who is the next chief minister and he will announce the name.”
PTI may offer speaker slot to PML-Q
Deliberations over the terms and conditions of cooperation between the PML-Q and the PTI are still ongoing. Initially, the PML-Q had demanded of the PTI that it get the slot of chief minister in the province or deputy prime minister.
The PTI, however, had rejected the demand right away.
As a second option, according to PML-Q official, the PML-Q had asked the PTI to nominate MPA-elect retired Maj Tahir Sadiq for the post of chief minister. Though Sadiq won a provincial assembly seat on a PTI ticket, he is a close relative to the Chaudhrys.
According to official, the PTI leaders are deliberating over whether they could offer the speakers and deputy speakers slots to the PML-Q.
The party leaders are close to developing a consensus on the issue, source added.
MQM in the limelight
PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, along with a party delegation, had also flown in to Karachi from Islamabad on Monday evening and invited former nemesis Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) to join them.
The MQM-P has won only six National Assembly seats — four in Karachi and two in Hyderabad — in the July 25 elections, compared to its 24 NA seats in 2013.
PTI chief Imran Khan has frequently criticised the MQM in the past; however, the PTI has approached the party now to ensure a victory in the centre.
Tareen said while talking to reporters at an airport: “Several statements are uttered during the election campaigns or in the heat of the moment or in any other context [but] recall Imran Khan’s speech. He had said that the time to change Pakistan has come and in this journey, we will join hands with all those forces who want to join us, except for the parties of the status quo. We have to join hands with others to form a government because (we can’t) make a new Pakistan without a government.”
PPP all set to play ARD-2
Meanwhile, the PPP, in coalition with the PML-N, is set to play an ARD-like opposition role in parliament as both the parties have agreed on the formulation of a “coordinated joint strategy” to oppose the PTI in the centre.
The broad-based understanding on cooperation was reached during the first direct meeting between the leaders of the PML-N and PPP on Sunday.
MMA recovers from the initial shock
Though the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) is yet to decide its final future course of action, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), an important component of the MMA, has announced it will join the opposition benches.
The JI central executive favoured going to the assemblies and playing the role of an effective opposition, instead of delaying the oath — as suggested by MMA chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.