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Wednesday July 24, 2024

PMLN, PPP, PTI intensify efforts in race for PM House

Party leaders were directed to think more options for future formation of the government in the Centre, Punjab and Balochistan

By Ali Raza & Asim Yasin & Imtiaz Hussain & Mumtaz Alvi
February 11, 2024
A view of the National Assembly in session. — APP/File
A view of the National Assembly in session. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE/SUKKUR: As the polling result announcements by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) nears completion, three major stakeholders — PMLN, PPP and the PTI-backed Independents — appear to be in the field to form the upcoming governments after the February-8 elections.

The process of consultations between major political parties intensified on Saturday, which was started by the PMLN on Friday, for the formation of federal and provincial governments. On the one hand, the MQMP delegation reached Lahore to meet PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif and other party leaders, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan claimed the President of Pakistan would offer them to form the federal government because they have the support of largest number of MNAs-elect.

Bilawal claimed on Saturday no government could be formed in the Centre as well as two provinces — Punjab and Balochistan – without the support of his party.

The PMLN consultation committee on Saturday held an important meeting to discuss the consultation process with like-minded parties for the formation of governments in the Centre and provinces. Shehbaz presided over the meeting, which discussed issues related to government formation. He informed the meeting about the contacts made with various parties on the instructions of Nawaz Sharif. The party leaders congratulated the party president on his victory in the February 8 elections. Senator Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, Senator Azam Nazir Tarar, Attaullah Tarar and Khawaja Imran Nazir attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, an MQMP delegation comprising Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Mustafa Kamal, Farooq Sattar and Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori arrived in Lahore in response to PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif’s invitation, following the results of the February 8 elections. The development comes a day after the PPP and PMLN leadership met to mull over the prospects of forming the government after none of them managed to secure a simple majority in the polls.

According to another related development, three newly-elected independent members of National Assembly announced allegiance to PMLN on Saturday, increasing the seats for Nawaz Sharif’s party two days after the general election.

Barrister Aqeel, Raja Khurram Nawaz, and Mian Khan Bugti, successful independent candidates from various constituencies, officially announced their decision to join the PMLN.

In a video message, Barrister Aqeel expressed gratitude to the constituents of NA-54, Taxila Wah, for their unwavering support and attributed his victory to their hard work and dedication.

Similarly, Raja Khurram Nawaz, newly-elected MNA from NA-48, Islamabad, extended his heartfelt thanks to voters and supporters across the constituency. He highlighted his decision to join the PMLN, emphasising his commitment to serving the area and contributing to its development as a member of the new government.

Mian Khan Bugti, the victorious independent candidate from NA-253 in Sibi Division, Balochistan, officially joined the ranks of PMLN. In his video message, Bugti acknowledged the congratulatory messages from Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif. He also revealed he had asked to contest the elections on a PMLN ticket.

On the other hand, PPP Chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari said no one could form governments in the Centre, Punjab or Balochistan without his party’s support, and PPP’s door was open to every political party for dialogue, as reconciliation was vital for political stability.

“So far, the PPP has not engaged officially with PMLN, PTI or any other party. Once the results are finalised, then the Central Executive Committee of the party, which nominated me as the candidate, will sit again and devise the course of action,” he said while responding to questions by panels of journalists on various private television channels. Responding to a question on meetings with political counterparts, Chairman Bilawal further said he was in no position to confirm any such meeting. “This is the preliminary stage; the PPP is still waiting for the results to be confirmed. The decisions of independent candidates are also awaited. We will be in the position to engage with other political parties, be it the PMLN, PTI or other independent candidates after the results are finalised,” he said.

The PPP chairman said it was in the interest of the country that “we forge a political consensus on the way forward in the Central Executive Committee of the party.

“We will try to forge this political consensus and would like to bring some positive change for the people of the country. If the government is formed, then we will not be able to solve problems of people without addressing the political toxicity,” he said.

Responding to a question, he said there had been no contact with Barrister Gohar so far, as the PPP was waiting for the counting to conclude. “We are in contact with certain independent candidates. As far as the PTI bloc is concerned, no contact has been made,” he said.

In a reply to another question, Bilawal said according to the current numbers, the chief minister of Punjab would not be successful without the PPP votes. He said the result so far showed that the PPP was the only party with representation in all four provinces. “The PPP is the party linking all four provinces,” he added.

Answering a question regarding the Lahore election, the PPP chairman said he was winning as per the initial results, but overnight, the position changed as 61,000 voters had entered through the PPP’s polling stations as per the tally received through the party’s mobile app prior to the discontinuation of internet and mobile services. “We are not disappointed at all,” he added. He said the elections revealed the PPP’s true potential which was unlimited. “With limited campaigning, the PPP has received an astounding response from Lahore and the party’s future as far as Punjab is concerned is very bright,” he said.

Bilawal said Nawaz Sharif made his speech in haste. “He too should have waited for the finalised results as us, but it is ultimately his and his party’s prerogative,” he said.

Separately, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan Saturday claimed his party-backed independents were leading with 170 National Assembly (NA) seats and they would form the federal as well as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincial government on their own.

He told a news conference here that there should be a ceasefire and their mandate should be respected. He remarked, “We are not fighting with anyone. We are not against any institution and respect and regard each one. Just asking them to respect the mandate the public has given to us. We have a majority, the President will invite us to form the government; we will move forward and form the government according to the Constitution and the law.”

Gohar, who won from NA-10, Buner with a big margin as an independent, said the founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Imran Khan, had given the same message that “slavery is unacceptable to us”.

He demanded that all results of the general election should be announced immediately, alleging that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) failed to perform its election duties. “Earlier, the Commission had assured us of a level playing field, but it failed to prepare the election results on time,” he added.

Indirectly, he ruled out the possibility of joining hands with the PMLN or the PPP and said that they would soon decide on future options. In the constituencies where the results had been withheld, he announced there would be peaceful protests on Sunday (today) before the offices of the returning officers (ROs). He said party workers should bring the flag of Pakistan to the protest venues if results were not announced by 12 at Saturday night.

He pointed out the presiding officers made Form 45 by counting the votes and they have all Form 45 with them.

Flanked by PTI Information Secretary Raoof Hasan and other leaders, Gohar said those who had won just 50 seats were issuing statements to form the government. He called it very unfortunate and referred to PMLN supremo’s reported statements that he had struck a deal to form government and he would be premier again.

He said elections were held on February 8 with the intervention of the Supreme Court and emphasised it was a responsibility of the ECP to give the results by 2am the same night, and the process of results should have been completed by 10am the next day.

He said the PTI had won 39 out of 45 seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and secured a two-thirds majority in the KP Assembly. “We are getting close to 135 seats in Punjab and the PTI will form the government there as well,” he claimed.

Gohar cautioned that if the voice of the people was suppressed and the government of ‘their’ own choice was formed, then democracy and the economy would not be able to bear with it.

To a question, he said they had not contacted Mehmood Khan Achakzai yet and remarked, “our independent candidates are in touch with us, they are loyal to the party and will remain with the party. We will form our independent government. We will complete the process within 15 days and go to the intra-party polls”.

He said all cases against the party founder were fake and the proceedings were conducted illegally.

The PTI chairman said they would reach a decision soon regarding the reserved seats as well as what party they should join.

Gohar said they would decide about the KP chief minister’s post after consultations in two days.

Meanwhile, Gohar Ali said Imran Khan’s party would form alliance with the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM). In a press conference, he confirmed the move regarding alliance with the MWM to secure reserved seats. He said the governments would be formed by parties who hold a big chunk in National Assembly and PTI would form government in Centre, Punjab and KP.

PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan also confirmed that the party had an “understanding” with the MWM. Talking to Geo News, he said the party would try to form its government in Punjab and claimed that they had the numbers to form the government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Claiming that 60 seats were snatched from the party, he said the party would approach election tribunals on the matter and even the courts if needed. “We will fight the case for the PTI,” he stressed while calling on the election tribunals to expedite the decisions.

In a major development, the Pakistan Peoples Party has demanded premiership for Bilawal Bhutto

for making a coalition government with PMLN, The News has learnt.

PMLN sources said former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif met former president Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto on Friday night and discussed the future coalition. Party sources said on Saturday the PMLN leaders had discussed different options for making the future government in Centre as well as in Punjab.

In this regard, a meeting of PMLN leadership was held on Saturday, which was headed by Shehbaz Sharif. The meeting was attended by Senator Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Maryam Aurangzeb, Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, Senator Azam Nazir Tarar, Attaullah Tarar, Khawaja Imran Nazir and others.

Sources said Shehbaz Sharif told his party leaders that Asif Zardari started the talks with the demand to make Bilawal Bhutto the prime minister and demanded major ministerial portfolios.

Shehbaz Sharif told the party leaders that Asif Ali Zardari offered in exchange, the PPP will support the PMLN to make its government in Punjab.

The PMLN president also discussed various options for government formation in the meeting. It was discussed in the party that though the PMLN had emerged as the largest political party in the country yet it can’t form the government on its own and needs the help of other political parties or independent candidates.

Party sources claimed the PMLN leadership was in a shock as the election results were completely different from their expectations. They said Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and other PMLN leaders were overconfident and the party leadership didn’t pay much attention to public rallies, door-to-door campaign, mass public campaigns and direct contacts with voters, especially on the election day.

Party sources added that so far making a coalition with Asif Ali Zardari was the first option the PMLN was exploring but didn’t want to give away the slot of prime minister.

Sources claimed the meeting decided that in case the negotiations with PPP failed, the PMLN will make a coalition government with MQM, JUIF and other smaller parties, including independents and electable. They further claimed that in this scenario, PMLN will make Shehbaz Sharif the Prime Minister and Maryam Nawaz the Chief Minister Punjab.

However, the party leaders were directed to think more options for future formation of the government in the Centre, Punjab and Balochistan.