PTI placates weary allies

Khattak-led committee holds talks with PML-Q Both sides
admit allaying of differences Vow coalition to stay stronger

By Uzma Zafar
ISLAMABAD: Another mission to appease a coalition partner by Pakistan Tehreeki- Insaf (PTI) ended up successful after a delegation of the ruling party managed to convince a ‘cross’ PML-Q in the final round of talks held on Wednesday. According to media reports, Prime Minister Imran Khan had formed a committee of his party’s leaders, headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, to meet ‘annoyed’ government allies MQM-P, PML-Q and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) to address their concerns. The PTI delegation, which also included senior PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Arbab Shahzad met a delegation of the PML-Q, which included federal minister Tariq Basheer Cheema, MNAs Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, Chaudhry Salik Hussain and Chaudhry Hussain Elahi in Islamabad today. Speaking to the media after the meeting, Cheema thanked Khattak and Tareen for “understanding our pain”. “Difference of opinion occurs when you live in the same house,” Cheema said, when asked if the PML-Q was still cross with the ruling party. He said that PMLQ had some “demands” and expressed the hope that they will be fulfilled soon. When asked what the demands were, Cheema said they were related to “development process”. Khattak told reporters that it was not the first meeting between the parties and said that they had met to remove some “misconceptions created by people”, without elaborating. The defence minister said that the parties were “allies before and will remain allies in the future”. “The misunderstanding [between us] has been removed and we will complete the five years of this government together,” Khattak said. Tareen, while talking to the media, denied that the PTI government was facing any troubles and said that he was confident that MQM-P lawmakers will return to the cabinet as talks with them were underway. He further said that several rounds of talks had been held with the BNP-M which have been productive. Reports of rifts between the PTI and its allies started circulating after MQM-P lawmaker Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui resigned as federal minister for information technology. They gained ground yesterday, after Cheema, who is the minister for housing, failed to attend the federal cabinet meeting yesterday. It was being said that the PML-Q’s decision to remain in coalition with the PTI depended on the outcome of today’s meeting. A senior PML-Q leader said his party’s ministers and lawmakers were already under pressure for failing to achieve what they were committed regarding a share in the administration as well as development budgets for their respective constituencies. A member of the federal cabinet, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that non-distribution of development funds, particularly in Punjab, was one of the complaints of PML-Q. He said that Punjab’s Annual Development Programme was worth Rs342 billion, but only Rs70bn have so far been released. Earlier this week, a PTI delegation, led by Planning Minister Asad Umar, met Siddiqui and other MQM-P leaders in Karachi. They insisted that the meeting was pre-planned and Siddiqui said that while he had resigned from the cabinet, his party had not backed down from its support for the government. Pakistan Tehreeki- Insaf led government has moved to mend fences with its estranged coalition partners as party leaders Jahangir Tareen and Pervaiz Khattak have initiated a round of meetings with allies. Ruling PTI faces a challenging situation after various parties in the government coalition have expressed their reservations over various unresolved issues. It is to be mentioned here that Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) expressed its grievances with the government on last Sunday and announced resignation of the party’s minister in federal cabinet Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui in a press conference in Karachi. Sindh Governor Imran Ismail also held a meeting with Pir Pagara Pir Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, at his residence on Tuesday convincing him to allow more time to address unresolved issues between PTI and the Grand Democratic Alliance. The government’s other coalition partners PML-Q and BNP-Mengal have also expressed their reservations. The situation could pose a threat to the PTI led government in case of withdrawal of support by the allies.