LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Making another big U-turn, PTI Chairman Imran Khan Friday invited the coalition government to talk over the possibility of early general elections and threatened that if the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies were dissolved, around 66% of Pakistan will have to go to the polls.
“Give us a date for elections or we will dissolve the KP and Punjab assemblies,” he said in a video address to the PTI’s Punjab parliamentary party from his Zaman Park, Lahore residence.
“We have the full backing of PML-Q. CM Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi will disband the provincial assembly on my call,” he said. Imran said the demand for early general elections was part and parcel of their resolve to shore up the country’s economy as the party was totally focused on bringing Pakistan back to its feet.
He said the whole world was saying “Pakistan is galloping towards default”. “Remittances have started falling, tax collection is shrinking, default risks are growing higher and higher, while Ishaq Dar is sitting silent in a corner.” He said economic stability was tied to political stability and there was no other way around it.
“No elections, no political stability in the country,” he said, adding that the coalition government was not willing to consider snap polls because they knew they would be wiped out. Berating the government for botching the economy, Imran said they did not have a roadmap to turn the economy round.
“The only plan they have is to somehow have me declared disqualified by filing cases against me and other party leaders,” the PTI chairman claimed. Meanwhile, the PTI on its official Twitter handle posted a message quoting Imran Khan as saying that CM Pervaiz Elahi has invested him with the power to dissolve the Punjab assembly.
Imran has announced quitting the assemblies across the country, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. The party’s leadership, according to PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry, has approved the dissolution of assemblies in both the provinces, but the final decision will be made after further consultations. In response to Imran’s invitation to talks, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leadership “will not refuse dialogue with the PTI”.
“Talks against dialogue are considered apolitical and undemocratic by the PDM. Its leadership will not refuse to sit and talk. We believe in resolving political matters in a political manner,” he said in a statement.
“When political parties and politicians sit down, deadlocks end and paths to resolve conflicts are found.” Citing differences within the PDM on various matters, the minister said the coalition would respond to this offer after due consultations.
The interior minister said the government’s stance on conducting elections on time was unchanged. “The government will condemn if the PTI attempts to dissolve the assemblies, even if the move will favour the PML-N.”
“We do not welcome the act of dissolving the assemblies and consider it undemocratic. They can dissolve assemblies if they want to. They will be responsible for it,” the minister maintained.
“We will be in a better position to contest elections if they dissolve the assemblies. If elections take place, we will defeat them in Punjab and get majority [seats],” the minister said, adding that the government would be in a better position if polls were held in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“If we contest the Punjab Assembly’s elections while being in the federal government, then we are in a better position,” he explained. Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb Friday advised the PTI Chairman Imran Khan to wait till October 2023 for the next general election.
“October 2023” is the ultimate election month, she said in a tweet in response to the PTI chief’s statement that ‘the rulers should sit with us and give date for the general elections or else we will dissolve the assemblies”.
The PTI chief made the demand during his speech to the party’s parliamentary party meeting in Lahore earlier in the day amid reports that there were loud voices of opposition to the dissolution of assemblies.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said four years of mess could not be cleaned in few months adding that the coalition government must complete its term to end the current economic crisis.
The country can’t afford an interim setup given the current state of the economy, he added. Talking to a private news channel, he said the state of the economy was worse than anticipated when the PDM came to power.
The coalition government made difficult decisions at great political cost and won back the trust of the international financial institutions, he asserted. Answering a question, Abbasi said Imran Khan intended to utilise the public mandate as a tool for political pressure but he will pay for such undemocratic decisions. The PDM has the constitutional option to table a no-confidence motion against the Punjab and KP chief ministers to prevent the dissolution, he added.
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