Media reports are suggesting that PTI Chairman Imran Khan may be mulling his party’s return to the National Assembly so that a caretaker setup for the next general elections — which reportedly Imran believes will be held in March or April — cannot be made without the PTI’s consent. There have been speculations that President Arif Alvi may ask Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for a vote of confidence. Some say that this could happen once (or if) Imran returns to the NA. If this were to happen, and Shehbaz is somehow unable to get the required 172 votes, early elections would then be imminent. Earlier, the PTI had assumed that with the Punjab Assembly dissolved and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly’s dissolution on the cards, the PDM government would be forced into early elections but so far the government has been quite insistent that it will complete its term. The PTI was able to spring a surprise in Punjab by not only getting Pervaiz Elahi the vote of confidence but also getting him to dissolve the assembly. Will it also spring a surprise in the National Assembly? The alternate thinking is that if the PTI returns to parliament, it would also be a face-saving for the PDM government which had maintained that they would not be blackmailed into early elections until the PTI sat with them on the negotiating table.
Now there are reports that the PML-Q could formally join the PTI along with some other members of the PML-Q. Promptly after these reports, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat suspended Elahi’s basic membership, saying Elahi does not have any authority to merge the party with the PTI. A few days ago, Imran had told journalists that he wanted the PML-Q to merge with the PTI instead of just remaining a political ally. Political observers say that the reason the PTI would want a merger with the PML-Q is because Imran would not want the PTI to be blackmailed by any ally and would rather it join hands with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. Part of the calculation would also be the not-significant- factor of the Chaudhrys being quite entrenched in Punjab’s local politics. For the PML-Q, the merger makes little sense other than the plausible conspiracy theory that Moonis Elahi is looking for a bigger role in a merged PMLQ-PTI, bigger than some would think. Whatever the reasons, the Elahis have pretty much made their bed now: it remains to be seen how other ‘heavyweights’ in the PTI see this development.