Public posturing aside, major coalition partners behind the scene are discussing election strategy and contingency plan in case they are left with nothing but to go for snap polls in the wake of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s announcement of dissolving two provincial assemblies – in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
In this regard, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held on Tuesday a meeting with former president Asif Ali Zardari to discuss Imran’s threat of dissolving K-P and Punjab assemblies along with PTI lawmakers stepping down from the other legislatures.
وزیراعظم شہباز شریف سے سابق صدر آصف علی زرداری کی ملاقات
دونوں قائدین کی ملاقات وزیر اعظم ہاؤس میں ہوئی
قائدین نے ملک کی مجموعی سیاسی صورتحال پر تبادلہ خیال کیا
ملاقات میں سیلاب متاثرین کی بحالی اور سردیوں کی آمد کے پیش نظر امدادی عمل کا جائزہ لیا گیا pic.twitter.com/vG7XMs56pm
— PML(N) (@pmln_org) November 29, 2022
In the closed-door meeting, the two leaders contemplated Imran’s political move following the peaceful conclusion of the PTI’s long march.
While discussing the overall political situation of the country, sources in the ruling alliance said, the two leaders simultaneously discussed ways to defuse the threat of dissolution of the assemblies and the ruling alliance’s strategy for the polls.
The prime minister lend his ear to the head of the key coalition partner after he called on him at the PM House to gauge the political challenges arising after the PTI chief’s announcement that he would opt out from the “corrupt system” to force the ruling alliance into snap elections.
Also read: PTI seals fate of K-P, Punjab assemblies
Once considered bitter rivals in the political arena, PM Shehbaz and PPP stalwart Zardari have come a long way, especially, after becoming coalition partners in the PML-N-led ruling alliance as the PTI’s threat of the dissolution of two provincial assemblies is looming large on the political horizon.
Since becoming partners, PM Shehbaz and Zardari have frequently been holding consultative sessions on issues ranging from the timing of the next general elections, especially after burning political capital, to the military chief’s appointment and from discussing floods to the economic performance of the incumbent government and relief measure that could mould public opinion in their favour.
دونوں قائدین نے سیلاب متاثرین کی بحالی کے عمل کو مزید تیز بنانے پر اتفاق کیا
دونوں قائدین نے معاشی بہتری، عوام کے ریلیف اور ترقیاتی عمل کے حوالے سے امور پر بھی گفتگو کی pic.twitter.com/lJ5ite9M48
— PML(N) (@pmln_org) November 29, 2022
Sources in the ruling alliance said that they posturing that they want to delay elections but they are simultaneously preparing a strategy for the next general elections. A key PML-N leader, requesting not to be named, said that “the PML-N is ready for the elections”.
While throwing a gauntlet at PTI chief Imran Khan, the PML-N leader said that Imran shouldn’t waste time and dissolve the assemblies immediately.
“We are ready for elections; no heaven will fall; the most that can happen is that we can lose but that shouldn’t be a reason to block Imran’s move and delay polls,” he said.
He added that there was more hype about blocking the PTI’s move of dissolving the assembly in the media than inside the party circles, saying a no-confidence motion could only delay dissolution for a few days if it doesn’t succeed.
On the option of imposing the governor’s rule, he said that “it is no joke to impose the governor’s rule”, saying it requires so many grounds and even if such a decision is taken, it would be difficult to sustain it for long as it can be challenged and the courts can strike it down.
To a question about party supremo Nawaz Sharif’s return before the general elections, he said that it is up to the PML-N to go ahead with or without Nawaz and there would be plenty of time for taking a decision in this regard. “Once elections are announced, we would have at least three months to bring back Nawaz Sharif, if needed,” he said, “It’s more than enough for us.”
Meanwhile, there were others in the ruling alliance, who emphasise that elections would be held on time.
Referring to PM Shehbaz’s recent and previous statements as well as the coalition government’s stance that elections would be held on time, they said holding elections would be difficult without a fresh census and in view of the situation in the flood-affected areas.
Also read: Imran springs ‘surprise’ on govt
On tabling of a no-confidence motion against Punjab CM Pervaiz Elahi, a PPP leader also agreed with the PML-N leader’s view that it can only give a few days to the ruling alliance if not passed, saying the party leadership is working on getting the provincial chief executive’s support back.
“If Pervaiz Elahi can go to the PTI after Dua-e-Khair, we can hope that he can come back to us as well,” he quipped. He was referring to Elahi’s decision to join the PTI after accepting the then-united opposition’s offer to become the Punjab’s CM on the condition that he would support them in the no-confidence motion against the ex-premier Imran Khan.
The official statement issued after Shehbaz-Zardari meeting stated that the leaders discussed the overall political situation, the flood situation, the rehabilitation of the flood victims and the relief process in line with the winter season. It said that the two leaders agreed to speed up the process of rehabilitation of the flood victims. Moreover, it added, the two leaders also discussed issues related to economic improvement, the relief that could be provided to the masses and the development projects.
Still, some others believed that Imran would not really go for the dissolution of the assemblies and his announcement was just a reminder for the powerful quarters that the party still holds cards and has some leverage that can be used when the time is right.
A JUI-F leader said that Imran’s statement of abandoning the system would prove to be like his earlier announcements where he promised millions of houses and jobs. “The U-turn master would soon take the U-turn on the dissolution of the assemblies,” the JUI-F’s official statement said.