PM Imran calls on Chaudhry brothers to offset opposition’s overtures


Lahore, MAR 1: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday met his government’s key allies — Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi — at their residence in Lahore in a bid to ensure their support as opposition parties prepare to move a no-confidence motion against the premier.

The PML-Q, which is also an ally of the PTI government in Punjab, has assumed much more importance since opposition parties stepped up efforts to dislodge the government through a no-trust move. In order for such a move to succeed, the opposition would require PML-Q’s votes in the National Assembly.

The premier’s meeting with Elahi and Shujaat comes after a string of recent meetings between the PML-Q leadership and major opposition leaders — Shehbaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman — all of whom are vying for the Chaudhry brothers’ support to send PM Imran’s government packing.

Videos of today’s meeting shared by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) showed that Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Energy Minister Hammad Azhar, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood and PML-Q MNAs, including Shafay Hussain and Salik Hussain, among others, were also present on the occasion.

The PMO said the current political situation in the country and other matters of mutual interest were discussed in detail during the meeting.

According to a press release issued by the PML-Q after the meeting, party president Shujaat appreciated the government’s decision to reduce petrol and electricity prices and suggested that PM Imran may “assign duties to his ministers to monitor prices in the markets” so that the benefits of such relief measures could reach the grassroots.

The press release said Shujaat and Elahi also appreciated the premier’s recent visit to Moscow, the timing of which was questioned by some sections in light of an ongoing Russian offensive in Ukraine.

Elahi, who is also the Punjab Assembly speaker, appreciated the announcement of a package to “restore industries” by the prime minister earlier today and recommended that a similar package be introduced to specifically target Punjab’s industrial estates.

At this, PM Imran said it was a good idea and Punjab’s industries would also be covered under the package, according to the press release.

PM Imran inquired after Shujaat’s wellbeing, the press release said, adding that the premier wished the ailing PML-Q leader good health.

There had been speculation that PM Imran would hold a meeting with the PML-Q leaders, who have been approached in recent days by various opposition parties seeking support for a no-confidence motion against the PTI government.

For weeks, the opposition has been saying that it intends to remove the PTI government through a no-trust move in parliament after Maulana Fazlur Rehman, president of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), which is an anti-government alliance of opposition parties, formally announced the plan on February 11.

Addressing a press conference alongside PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly in Lahore, Shehbaz Sharif, Fazl had shared that they would also be taking on board the government’s allies in this regard as the opposition would need their votes in parliament to succeed.

Since then, an apparent bonhomie has been developing between opposition parties on this front, with the PDM and PPP joining hands to make the no-confidence move a success.

In a recent development, PPP leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Fazl called on Shehbaz at his Model Town residence, where PML-N supremo and former premier Nawaz Sharif joined from London via video link to give a final shape to the opposition’s plans.

After the opposition trio’s huddle, Fazl paid a follow-up visit to Shujaat and Elahi and told them about the opposition’s plans, seeking their support.

Later, former president Zardari also hosted a dinner in the honour of Elahi, PML-Q’s federal ministers Moonis Elahi and Tariq Bashir Cheema, MNAs Salik Husain and Hussain Elahi, and Rasiq Elahi and Shafay Hussain at Bilawal House in a bid to convince them to support the opposition’s cause.

According to a joint statement, the PPP and PML-Q had agreed to take decisions in consultation with each other. “The leadership of PML and PPP expressed full confidence in each other. The political situation in the country and other issues of mutual interest were discussed in detail during the meeting.”

The PML-N had also approached the PML-Q earlier this month in a meeting between leaders of the two parties after 14 years.