The final round

January 22, 2023

It appears that things will get messier on the political scene before they finally make sense

The final round


Politics in the Punjab has been a rollercoaster ride since the ouster of its former chief minister, Sardar Usman Buzdar. Political wrangling is currently at its peak in the Punjab, which is likely to witness a fierce battle in the next general elections.

Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, who had replaced Buzdar as chief minister, was thrown out by the PTI-PML Q alliance after they managed to clinch the July 17 by polls. The victory put them ahead of the PDM.

After the January 12 vote of confidence, Chief Minister Parvez Elahi, dissolved the assembly, ending the brief speculation regarding his intentions. Governor Balighur Rehman didn’t sign the summary for the dissolution of the provincial assembly but this was of no significant consequence.

Momentarily, the dissolution advice left the opposition stunned. However, despite the optics, some analysts say Imran Khan’s strategy indicates a lack of political acumen. This, they say, is apparent from the names proposed by both sides for the caretaker set-up.

In consultation with Khan, Elahi nominated Nasir Mehmood Khosa, a former civil servant; in-service Ahmad Nawaz Sukehra and Naseer Ahmed Khan, who had served as health minister during Gen Musharraf’s reign. From the opposition side, Hamza Shahbaz nominated media mogul Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi and former bureaucrat Ahad Khan Cheema.

Once the two sides refused to agree on any of the names, Speaker Muhammad Sibtain Khan on January 18 formed a parliamentary committee. Three legislators from treasury benches including former provincial ministers Mian Aslam Iqbal, Raja Basharat and Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht and three opposition members including PML-N’s Malik Ahmed Khan, PPP’s Syed Hassan Murtaza and PML-N’s Malik Nadeem Kamran are part of the committee. If the committee fails to reach a consensus in three days, the matter will be referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Most analysts say that the parliamentary committee is unlikely to reach consensus.

Out of the three names proposed by Elahi, Nasir Mahmood Khosa, had looked most likely to be acceptable to the opposition. He had served as principal secretary to former premier Nawaz Sharif and chief secretary in the Punjab under then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. However, he refused to take the coveted job. Sukhera is seen mostly as credible, competent and apolitical; but he is a serving bureaucrat due to retire on January 31. He also has a dual nationality. So does Naseer Ahmed Khan.

The final round

Speaking to The News on Sunday, former Election Commission of Pakistan secretary Kanwar M Dilshad says that Ahmad and Naseer could have been good choices otherwise but Article 22 bars a dual national from holding a public office.

From among Hamza Shahbaz’s nominees Naqvi, best known for his media enterprise, probably came closest to being acceptable to the other side.

Ahad Cheema, a former director general of the Lahore Development Authority was considered too close to Shabaz Sharif. Under the PTI government he was accused of corruption and is currently on bail.

Journalist Rauf Klasra has said the matter is likely to be referred to the Election Commission and that Naqvi is the likeliest nominee to become the caretaker CM.

Hinting on a return to the National Assembly on January 16, in a meeting with senior journalists, Imran Khan said Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif will have “sleepless nights” over the coming days as President Arif Alvi could ask him to take a vote of confidence. Speaker Raja Parvez Ashraf has since accepted the pending resignations of 35 PTI MNAs.

Commenting on the development, PTI secretary general Asad Umar said:

“Our strategy is that the remaining MNAs will go to the National Assembly so that we can stop them from bringing a caretaker premier of their choice in consultation with Raja Riaz once the assembly completes its tenure.”

Umar added that Imran Khan will contest by elections to the all 33 general seats. He said that Khan will start his campaign as soon as he is well enough.

“It is likely that they will panic and accept some more resignations. It is a win-win situation for us, whether they accept the resignations or not,” Umar said.

Currently, the PDM government has 181 legislators. Even if the PTI manages to convince the MQM to not vote for Shahbaz Sharif, it will have 174 legislators. The required number for a successful vote is 172.

Imran Khan is also eyeing the popularity graph, which is in his favour so far.

Federal Minister Khawaja Asif has said that the PDM will not contest by-elections on the seats falling vacant lately.

Speaking to TNS, Dr Marium Kamal, a political scientist, says: “Both the PTI and the PML-N seem to be reacting to political developments than having proactive strategies.”

She says the PTI’s strategy is more goal oriented; the aggressive campaigning, long marches and dissolution of the Punjab and KP assemblies, she says, have increased pressure on the federal government.

The writer is a journalist based in Lahore. He reports on politics, economy and militancy. He can be reached on Twitter @Hassannaqvi5

The final round