LAHORE: Three days after imposition of the governor’s rule in Punjab, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is yet to come up with a feasible plan to form its government in the province.
All that it has been able to conjure up so far is meek voices that have been drowned by the emotional chorus whipped up by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on the disqualification of its leaders and fall of its government in the province.
Governor Salmaan Taseer, who had predicted formation of a PPP government in Punjab – the first in more than 30 years – long before the Supreme Court verdict against the Sharif brothers, never tired of giving controversial statements till taking charge as the chief executive of Punjab but he is nowhere to be seen or heard now.
His aides told Dawn that the governor was ‘busy in urgent administrative and other official matters relating to provincial government’.
PPP leader Tanvir Ashraf Kaira claimed at a press conference on Friday that his party was going to form the next provincial government. But he appeared to have no clue as to who was going to be the PPP’s candidate for the chief minister’s post. Nor did he say how the party planned to go about forming the government.
Earlier, PPP parliamentary party leader Raja Riaz had said that the party leadership was in contact with all political forces represented in the provincial assembly – including the PML-Q, some PML-N dissidents, the PML-F and the MMA.
If the former senior minister in the Shahbaz Sharif government were to be believed, the PPP should have finalised arrangements for forming a coalition with the PML-Q, the party holding the balance in Punjab.
PML-Q information secretary Tariq Azeem appeared to suggest to the contrary when he said a majority within his party felt that the PPP had violated the popular mandate by imposing the governor’s rule in the province.
‘The feeling in the party is that it would negate the spirit of democracy to side against the popular mandate,’ he said while talking to Dawn from Islamabad by telephone.
At the same time, he said it would be premature to say what position his party would take. ‘It’s a crucial issue and will be taken up by the party leadership at its central executive committee meeting next week. None of our leaders, including Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, has taken a definitive stance on whether to side with the PPP or the PML-N (when the provincial assembly elects the leader of the house).’
The PML-Q’s ‘indecisiveness’ is popularly being interpreted as its efforts to raise the stakes in the power game in Punjab. It is believed that the PML-Q is demanding chief minister’s post for Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s son, Moonis Elahi, or Senate chairmanship for Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and the defence ministry.
But Mian Atta Mohammad Maneka, the leader of dissident PML-Q members of the Punjab Assembly is supporting the PML-N ‘unconditionally’. ‘
We have no demands or conditions. If the need arises, the Unification Group (the name of the PML-Q forward block in the Punjab Assembly) will side by the PML-N for the formation of its government,’ he told reporters after attending the Punjab PML-N parliamentary party meeting at the Sharif’s Raiwind Estate.
Maneka claimed that 35 PML-Q legislators, out of a total of 85, were supporting the PML-N and 33 had attended the meeting. The remaining two could not come as one of them was in France and the other could not be informed about the meeting.
The claim, however, could not be verified independently. Some of the PML-Q dissidents later participated in the protest against the governor’s rule outside the Punjab Assembly under the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif.
He claimed that no PML-Q leader or legislator favoured an alliance with the PPP. ‘Only Pervaiz Elahi wants it to win chief minister’s post for his son.’
The dissident PML-Q leader, who was critical of the PPP for imposing the governor’s rule, said the survival of the federation without Punjab was difficult. To a question, he said the Unification Group was not afraid of the threats of disqualification for voting for the PML-N, ruling out the remotest possibility of going with his party if its leadership decided to cooperate with the PPP.
The participation of the PML-Q dissidents and PML-F legislators in a meeting led PML-N Rana Sanaullah to claim that his party had support of 217 legislators. It needed only 186 votes to win the election of the leader of the house.
‘We have numerical strength to form our government whenever the assembly session is convened. Nobody should doubt it,’ he said, adding the PPP would not have imposed the governor’s rule if it could muster the support of the required number of legislators to install its government.
It may be recalled that the PML-N’s candidate Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui had secured 201 votes from Punjab in the presidential elections in September last year.
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